Nurses to rally at facilities nationwide over staffing

Thousands of nurses represented by National Nurses United plan to rally nationwide Jan. 26 to call on hospitals to provide safe staffing.

Actions are scheduled in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New York and Texas. Some of the actions will involve workers at facilities that are part of Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare, St. Louis-based Ascension, Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente, and Providence, which has system offices in Renton, Wash., and Irvine, Calif., according to a Jan. 24 union news release. More information about the actions is available here

Union members said they "will highlight the ongoing 'quad-demic' fueled by the hospital industry’s prioritization of money over patient care." They contend this winter's surge in respiratory syncytial virus, flu and COVID-19 patients resulted in staffing shortages and crisis conditions at hospitals.

"We're the most trusted profession in America because we do everything in our power to take care of our patients," NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN, said in a news release, referencing nursing being ranked the most trusted profession for 22nd year in a row. "On our national day of action, NNU members will stand up for staffing models that adequately protect patients, nurses and our communities against public health crises."

The California Hospital Association contends that the protests ignore the realities of staffing shortages.

"The healthcare workforce shortage is very real," Carmela Coyle, president and CEO of the association, said in a statement shared with Becker's. "California's hospitals, like hospitals throughout the nation and across the world, face the worst staffing shortages in memory. More than three-quarters (78 percent) of hospitals in California have experienced an increase in staff turnover since the end of 2019 (just prior to the start of the pandemic).

"There simply are not enough workers to meet California's surging healthcare needs."

Amid challenges such as inflation, workers leaving their jobs and Medicaid funding shortfalls, California hospitals welcome opportunities to partner with nurses, healthcare technicians and others to find creative and sustainable solutions to workforce challenges, Ms. Coyle said.

Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance (Calif.), one of the facilities where an action is scheduled, said in a statement that it respects workers and their right to participate in union activities "but would prefer to avoid tactics aimed at swaying public opinion."

The statement also said patient care will not be affected by the Jan. 26 informational picket, which is not a strike, and that the hospital is committed to and values all its caregivers.

HCA's Corpus Christi (Texas) Medical Center, another facility where an action is scheduled, shared the following statement: "The reality is, against the backdrop of a national nursing shortage, exacerbated by a pandemic and continuing patient surges, our staffing is safe, appropriate and in line with other community hospitals and applicable regulations."

The hospital also pointed the 60 nurses it hired in January and 178 nurses it hired in 2022. Additionally, it pointed to recent recognitions it received for quality and safety, such as an "A" patient safety score from the Leapfrog Group.

"We value all members of our care teams, and neither this nor any other labor union activity will interfere with our commitment to quality, safe patient care and services to our patients and this community," Corpus Christi Medical Center said.

Becker's reached out to Ascension for comment and will update this story if more information becomes available.

The day of action comes as at least four states have recently proposed staffing ratios, which would limit the number of patients a nurse could be assigned at a given time. California is currently the only state that mandates nurse-to-patient ratios. National Nurses United said it supports efforts to pass federal legislation to establish safe staffing and nurse-to-patient ratio standards, in addition to efforts to address staffing during contract negotiations.

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