Healthcare workers launch campaign for safe staffing legislation

As half of healthcare workers report they’re likely to quit, new coalition campaign calls on lawmakers to pass legislation to mitigate the statewide hospital staffing crisis #

Wa safe healthy

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Today a coali­tion of health­care workers launched the WA Safe + Healthy campaign calling on Washington legis­la­tors to pass safe staffing standards that protect health­care workers from danger­ously high patient loads.

We cannot wait another year – we need enforce­able safe staffing standards now that allow us to do our jobs safely and give patients the care they deserve,” said Ademola Adeyemo, a certi­fied nursing assis­tant in the surgical unit at UW Medical Center — North­west in Seattle and a member of SEIU Health­care 1199NW. For years we have been sounding the alarm about chronic staffing short­ages, which existed well before COVID. We need solutions now.”

Throughout the pandemic health­care workers have worked tirelessly and put their own lives at risk to protect their commu­ni­ties, despite being burned out and at the breaking point. In new polling released by the WA Safe + Healthy campaign conducted among members of UFCW 21, SEIU Health­care 1199NW and Washington State Nurses Associ­a­tion – who collec­tively repre­sent more than 71,000 nurses and other health­care workers in Washington – a staggering 84 percent of WA health­care workers said they feel burned out. Concern­ingly, 49 percent reported they’re likely to leave the health­care profes­sion in the next few years. Among those who said they were likely to leave, 70 percent said the biggest reason was short staffing.

I’ve been a nurse for 26 years, and I’ve never seen so many colleagues leaving,” said Julia Barcott, a critical care nurse at Astria Toppenish Hospital and WSNA union leader. They are retiring early, they are leaving to become travelers, and they have gone to less stressful jobs in clinics or freestanding surgical centers to get out of the pressure cooker that has become bedside care. This has meant that we are scram­bling to cover our patients’ needs – it’s bad for nurses and health­care workers, and it’s bad for patients.”

Washington has faced a staffing shortage for years, but the pandemic further exacer­bated longstanding short-staffing issues. Health­care workers have asked hospital execu­tives for help to make their jobs manage­able and to improve safety for health­care workers and patients, but they’ve been ignored. In total, the WA Safe + Healthy campaign is calling on lawmakers to:

  • Pass safe staffing standards that protect health­care workers from danger­ously high patient loads and create adequate enforce­ment to ensure hospi­tals follow them.
  • Enforce existing overtime and meal and rest break laws to ensure health­care workers are getting their legally required break time and end the abuse of manda­tory overtime.
  • And invest in workforce devel­op­ment to increase the number of health­care workers entering the field, an impor­tant part of addressing the health­care staffing shortage but only along­side safe staffing standards that also protect them from the massive burnout and unman­age­able condi­tions our health­care workers are currently facing – and leaving.

You can’t begin to address the long-term staffing shortage without first addressing the massive burnout and exhaus­tion health­care workers are facing,” said Derek Roybal, a cardio­vas­cular tech at Provi­dence Sacred Heart in Spokane and a member of UFCW 21. In no other industry could you expect to attract a new gener­a­tion to enter the field by promising them that in a year they’ll be burned out, under-valued and overwhelmed. Safe staffing standards and enforce­ments that ensure hospital execu­tives will finally follow them are the only way to begin solving this crisis.”

Just as the hospital staffing shortage pre-existed COVID, the crisis won’t disap­pear when the pandemic ends. Washington’s health­care workers need legis­la­tors to pass enforce­able safe staffing standards for the health and safety of workers and patients.

About WA Safe + Healthy #

The WA Safe + Healthy campaign is a coali­tion of health­care workers calling on Washington legis­la­tors to pass safe staffing standards for the health and safety of both workers and patients. Collec­tively, the Washington State Nurses Associ­a­tion, UFCW 21 and SEIU Health­care 1199NW repre­sent more than 71,000 health­care workers in the state of Washington. Learn more at wasafe​and​healthy​.com.

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