This content origi­nally appeared as part of the Spring/​Summer 2020 issue of The Washington Nurse magazine. See the entire set of articles online: CONFRONTING COVID-19: NURSES ON THE FRONT LINES.

In your facilities #

We’ve worked with employers to secure new agree­ments, clear policies and resources for nurses. Where employers have fallen short, we’ve filed complaints with the Depart­ment of Health and Occupa­tional Safety (DOSH) and other relevant bodies to hold employers accountable.

WSNA has negoti­ated Memoranda of Under­standing (MOUs) at more than 20 facil­i­ties, covering members and providing condi­tions such as reassign­ment guaran­tees for nurses with higher risk factors and paid quaran­tine policies. We continue to negotiate at facil­i­ties around the state. Highlights of provi­sions achieved include:

  • Paid admin­is­tra­tive leave when quarantined.
  • Immediate access to EIT/PTO.
  • Timely notifi­ca­tion (e.g., within 8 hours,” as soon as possible”) of exposure.
  • Mainte­nance of health insur­ance if unable to work.
  • Float premiums ($4-$10/hr).
  • Additional bank of paid emergency time-off hours.

WSNA filed DOSH complaints at 10 facil­i­ties to hold employers account­able for unsafe working condi­tions stemming from issues such as inade­quate PPE, improp­erly maintained equip­ment and insuf­fi­cient cleaning procedures.


With public officials #

WSNA’s advocacy has helped move officials to act decisively in this crisis. As a result, Washington has flattened the curve faster and more effec­tively than many other states. Our public advocacy has included the following:

Covid fighting for you public officials

Registered nurses, including WSNA member Jason Gill, ARNP, participated in a conversation with Governor Jay Inslee about COVID-19 on May 6, National Nurses Day.

  • Worked with Gov. Inslee to secure a procla­ma­tion protecting high-risk workers from dangerous assign­ments and guaran­teeing alter­nate assign­ment or access to accrued leave and unemploy­ment benefits where alter­nate assign­ment was unavailable.
  • Worked with Gov. Inslee to issue new workers’ compen­sa­tion guidance, including assump­tion that COVID-19 exposure happened on the job and paid leave during any quaran­tine period.
  • Fought to prevent the CDC from easing PPE require­ments and other health and safety rules during the pandemic.
  • Engaged the Depart­ment of Health and Vice Admiral Bono to secure shipments of PPE from the national strategic reserve, push for trans­parency in testing protocol and results, protec­tion of vulner­able workers and other key issues.
  • Secured a Hazard Alert from the depart­ment of Labor & Indus­tries prohibiting the use of carcino­genic ethylene oxide in PPE decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion processes.
  • Worked with King County to secure free hotel rooms for nurses in King County who feared exposing family members in the absence of acces­sible testing.
  • Used our child­care survey, completed by nearly 1,000 members, to engage public officials statewide to provide child­care options for nurses and other health care workers.
  • Worked with our partner unions, especially UFCW 21 and SEIU Health­care 1199NW, to push for public policy including hazard pay, appro­priate PPE, child­care and housing and other critical issues our members have raised.
  • Petitioned state and federal officials to protect and support nurses with adequate PPE, hazard pay, fair reassign­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties and other measures members asked us to fight for.
  • Facil­i­tated member conver­sa­tions with their elected repre­sen­ta­tives in the Congres­sional Delegation.

WSNA member meetings with congres­sional delegation

To support our efforts to get federal relief for members, WSNA set up video confer­ence meetings with members of Congress. These listening sessions provided an oppor­tu­nity for our congres­sional delega­tion to hear about nurses’ experi­ences on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During these meetings, nurses shared their experi­ences and concerns over lack of PPE, inade­quate COVID testing, and — in light of these unsafe working condi­tions — the request for hazard pay.

As of mid-May, WSNA members had met with Congressman Derek Kilmer (7th CD), Congressman Adam Smith (9th CD), Congressman Dan Newhouse (4th CD), Congress­woman Suzan DelBene (1st CD), Congress­woman Pramila Jayapal (7th CD) and Congressman Denny Heck (10th CD).

As the Spring/​Summer 2020 issue of The Washington Nurse magazine went to press, Congress was contin­uing to discuss a fourth COVID stimulus package, to include funding for PPE, COVID-19 testing and hazard pay.


Protecting your practice #

Adt mask distro

Christina Harrington, RN, accepts face masks from AFT organizer Zachery Seikel in Bellevue on May 20.

Throughout this crisis, we’ve worked to ensure nurses have access to the infor­ma­tion and resources you need and to protect nursing practice during this pandemic and beyond. WSNA produced resources and guidance to help members navigate the changing landscape during this challenging time, including:

  • Regularly updated FAQs on key matters, from PPE acces­si­bility to benefits and staffing issues.
  • Webinars and videos to help members navigate avail­able resources, access state programs and under­stand rules such as PPE acces­si­bility, testing and personal safety.
  • Resource pages to help nurses with workplace and personal issues, including cleaning and disin­fecting proce­dures, psychoso­cial supports, parenting infor­ma­tion and more.

COVID-19 RESOURCES #

Find WSNA’s compre­hen­sive list of resources from the CDC, FDA, DOH, ANA, AFT and more at wsna​.org/covid19.

    Etyhl oxide alert

    Major win to prohibit use of carcinogen for PPE sterilization #

    When WSNA heard that hospi­tals were consid­ering using ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen, to clean face masks, we launched into action to put a stop to this cleaning process. Read more…


    In the media #

    The voices of front line nurses have been critical at every step of the fight, and WSNA has worked to ensure that your stories are being told while working to protect you from retal­i­a­tion. We’ve lifted up nurse voices in hundreds of media and online outlets — local, national and inter­na­tional — telling the real story of what’s happening on the front line. Through the media, we’ve helped move public opinion and policy to benefit nurses and other essen­tial workers. Check out the IN THE PRESS section of our website for a sampling of the hundreds of stories WSNA staff and members have appeared in.

    #SILENCEKILLS

    When Dr. Ming Lin, a longtime emergency room physi­cian at Peace­Health St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, was fired for speaking out about the lack of PPE in his hospital, WSNA immedi­ately released a state­ment of support. 

    We spoke to reporters around the world about the problem of silencing nurses and other health care workers who were working on the front lines without the protec­tive equip­ment and proto­cols they needed. Our execu­tive director, Sally Watkins, penned a guest column in The Seattle Times.

    Then, we launched the #SilenceKills campaign on social media to highlight the severe PPE shortage and nurses’ inability to speak out for fear of retal­i­a­tion from their employers.

    Adam Halvorsen, a regis­tered nurse at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in the Tri-Cities and a member of WSNA’s Board of Direc­tors, produced a video viewed by tens of thousands of people.

    Adam is a Marine who was deployed to Iraq and has worked as a firefighter and first responder, all roles where proper PPE helped keep him safe.

    As nurses and health care providers, we should not be expected to face this pandemic without proper personal protec­tive equip­ment (PPE),” Adam said in the video. Now is the time to speak up, because #SilenceKills.”

    WSNA members around the state shared photos of themselves with #SilenceKills signs, and member leaders spoke to the media about the dire need for more PPE. WSNA continues to raise your concerns and your voices in the media and in social media about the condi­tions you face.


    Continuing the fight for members #

    We’re proud of the wins we’ve achieved through solidarity and hard work, but we know that there are still signif­i­cant issues facing our members across the state. Our team will continue to work to protect your health and safety, to win hazard pay and other recog­ni­tion for your work and to uplift the stories of your contri­bu­tions to our state and our country.