Thanks to some creative preplanning, our unit survived a strike. Although the nurses at our hospital had faced the threat of a strike before, each period of negotiation was settled before the work stoppage deadline was reached—until last fall. This time, the situation became palpably uncomfortable when a mandatory, 10-day notice to strike was issued by the union.

The nurses in our unit were conflicted over whether they should “stay to care for the critically ill patients” or “strike for the future of nursing through better working conditions.” Adding to their indecisiveness was the fact that we are an extremely tight-knit, cohesive, caring group. When we realized that the strike was imminent, our concern was heightened, particularly with respect to how long we might be apart and the effect that would have on our positive working relationship.

Motivated by this “separation anxiety,” many of the nurses in our unit made...

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