Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), representing over one thousand registered nurses at St. Joseph Medical Center, is holding an informational picket to raise concerns about patient safety and welfare. Nurses are concerned that current proposals by management will make it harder to deliver safe patient care. Facing stalled contract negotiations, nurses are now reaching out directly to the public since their care will be at risk.
“Nurses at St. Joe’s are speaking out and fighting for patient safety. It just doesn’t make sense for a hospital to disregard nurses’ concerns and push proposals that could negatively impact patient care. Nurses want to make sure that patient care is the bottom line at St. Joe’s. This is not just about nurses here, it’s about the health and safety of this whole community,” said Christine Himmelsbach, MN, RN WSNA Assistant Executive Director of Labor Relations.
Nurses are expressing serious concerns about a proposal that would allow managers to move nurses to different patient care units without protective contract language guaranteeing adequate time and processes for nurses to be trained and oriented for that unit. Nurses want to make sure that the contract contains protections so that nurses are not asked to work in areas where they may not be adequately prepared to give the level of care necessary to ensure safety for every patient. The nurses are fighting for language that would ensure that nurses are only moved to different units after the nurse has received appropriate training and orientation.
“Every nurse here cares deeply about giving our patients safe and quality care, but the skills you need in one area of clinical expertise are not the same as the ones you use in a different clinical area. Procedures are different, equipment is different, and most importantly patient needs are different. We want to make sure that when you come to St. Joe’s, you have the best possible care. That means nurses who have the skills and experience to meet your specific needs. We want a contract that protects our patients and ensures you have the right nurse at your bedside,” said Dian Davis, RN, a nurse at St. Joseph Medical Center.
Management also has a proposal on the table that would allow them to give nurses less time to rest and recuperate between shifts after being called back into work. Currently, the hospital pays nurses additional compensation if a nurse is called back and has to work through their designated rest between shifts. Management is seeking to eliminate that financial penalty which would remove any incentive to adequately staff units and reduce the use of callback. When callback is used excessively, nurses are overworked and fatigued which has a direct impact on patient outcomes.
“As a nurse, my ability to stay sharp and focused throughout a shift is critical to the health and safety of my patients. Getting called back to work between shifts is physically and mentally exhausting, and it also takes us away from our families and lives outside of work. With this proposal, management wants to make it easier to work nurses longer hours with fewer protections in place to ensure that we’re getting the rest we need to be ready for each shift. It’s not right for nurses and it’s not right for patients,” said Oakley Meyers, RN, a nurse at St. Joseph Medical Center.
The nurses are also protesting today over the hospital’s failure to bargain in good faith, failure to provide critical information needed for bargaining, and restricting union activities. WSNA has filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board challenging these unlawful employer actions. The picketing effort is intended to alert the public to the hospital’s unfair labor practices during these negotiations where so many safety issues are at stake.