The name of the American Medical Association's new collective bargaining unit was announced last month--Physicians for Responsible Negotiations, or PRN. Sound familiar? Its more common meaning in the world of healthcare, "as needed," may be an indication that AMA higher-ups are feeling a bit reluctant to embrace the reality of an AMA-approved union for physicians.
After a year of debate and consideration, the AMA House of Delegates voted in June to form a national negotiating organization to represent members who are employed physicians. In September, the AMA Board of Trustees appointed five representatives to PRN's governing board and recommended various provisions for its constitution. Labor consultants also are assisting in developing the constitution.
Additional representatives will be selected during the next few months, and, according to an AMA spokesman, it is expected that the constitution will be finalized soon after.
"The principles behind PRN ... (no strikes) are in stark contrast to traditional trade union activities," says AMA President Thomas Reardon, M.D. PRN board member Susan Hershberg Adelman, M.D., acknowledges that the selection of the name was not done without thought. Adelman is a pediatric surgeon in Dearborn, Mich.
"The board wanted to be sure that when physicians have a problem with an employer or an insurer that they explore other options before going to the position of forming a labor organization and bargaining collectively," she says. At the same time, she cautions, PRN should not be taken lightly.
"The expectation is we will function as any labor organization with the caveat that we won't strike. I don't see us going out there and trying to stir the pot, but we do not intend to be shy about our availability."