Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), representing over 700 registered nurses at St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, is holding a rally today at Bellingham City Hall from noon to 1 p.m. to highlight issues critical to patient safety and nurse retention. Hospital management has proposed sweeping changes while ignoring nurses’ input on issues that impact their work at the bedside. The rally is bringing together over one hundred concerned nurses and community members to join in calling on the administration to respect the nurses and engage in meaningful discussions over patient care issues.
“When you ignore your nurses’ voices, you put patient safety at risk. Who knows this hospital better than the nurses that provide care every day? Who knows these patients better than the nurses? It’s also incredibly disrespectful and demoralizing for these nurses to be silenced. That’s not how you retain your experienced nurses or recruit new nurses to work here. WSNA is absolutely outraged with the administration’s decision to move forward with their plans for restructure,” said Christine Himmelsbach, MN, RN, WSNA Assistant Executive Director of Labor Relations.
In a recent WSNA survey of nurses at St. Joseph, 95% of respondents indicated that they “believe that St. Joseph Hospital Bellingham administration is making changes in the interest of their financial bottom line instead of what’s best for patient care.” The hospital has recently cut numerous positions that provide direct patient care, and nurses are reporting that they are often forced to work overtime, have difficulty taking rest breaks, and do not always receive adequate rest between shifts. The hospital’s proposal to change shift lengths does not address the underlying problem of understaffing, which nurses have identified as a key safety concern. Of the nurses surveyed, 60% answered that they do not have “adequate staffing to achieve appropriate patient care.”
The proposed restructure would include switching almost every nurse in the hospital to eight hour shifts. The decision was reached without meaningful input from the nurses at the bedside and management is planning to move forward unilaterally with implementation. Speakers at the rally are emphasizing that inadequate staffing is the safety concern that needs to be a top priority, rather than the cost-driven restructure the administration is proposing. The nurses are also using the rally to launch a petition for community members to sign in support of the nurses and their efforts to have a voice in hospital decisions affecting patient care.
“I love this community, and I love being a nurse. I have always liked working here at St. Joseph and until recently, really felt like this hospital took care of their nurses and their patients. It’s been getting harder and harder for us nurses to have a voice here. We used to work collaboratively with management, but now they’re planning to implement sweeping changes without listening to our professional knowledge and expertise. I hope that by coming out here today, we can put the relationship between administration and nurses back on track so we can all get back to focusing on what’s best for patients,” said Shawnee Moreland, RN.