Union urges Seattle Children's to invest in permanent nurses more than travel workers

Seattle Children's Hospital is facing pressure from the Washington State Nurses Association to pay its staff nurses more instead of paying travel nurse wages and offering hiring bonuses.  

The union represents 1,766 nurses at the hospital and is bargaining for a new contract that addresses wages, among other issues. 

In a June 28 news release, the WSNA cites Seattle Children's data showing the hospital's vacancy rate increased from 4.96 percent as of Dec. 28, 2020, to 19.24 percent as of Jan. 31, 2022.

"Seattle Children's is now short approximately 395 permanent nurses, which is concerning," the union wrote.

Many hospitals and health systems turned to third-party staffing agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic to address shortages of clinicians and other healthcare professionals. The union said Seattle Children's is no exception and increased its reliance on travel nurses while also offering new nurses hiring bonuses of $10,000 to $20,000.

However, the WSNA argues that "given the cost of finding new nurses and paying travel nurse wages, retaining nurses through meaningful wage increases makes more financial sense." 

"An investment in the permanent staff nurses — local residents who have made long-term commitments to the region's children — is both an ethical and financially prudent decision," the union said.

The WSNA cites information from Seattle Children's showing the hospital spent $52 million on travel nurses over the past two and a quarter years. Overall, the union called on the hospital to instead invest in raises for permanent nurses. 

Seattle Children's defended its compensation philosophy.

The hospital "provides the highest quality pediatric healthcare in the region, and we pride ourselves in our nurses who are part of the care team for patients and families," a hospital spokesperson said in a statement shared with Becker's. "We will continue to negotiate in good faith with our colleagues and hope to reach an agreement soon. Seattle Children's compensation philosophy is to be at the top of the market, and our economic offer continues to provide new and additional compensation to remain there. As negotiations continue, we all agree that putting patients first is our highest priority."

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