Nurses and community picket for nurse and patient safety at St. Joe’s Tacoma

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Hundreds of nurses, patients and commu­nity leaders gathered outside St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma On Nov. 3 to demand the hospital improve condi­tions so nurses can provide safe, high-quality care to every patient. Nurses and supporters carried signs and rallied along J Street in front of the hospital to demand that Common­Spirit invest its profits in nurses and quality patient care.

Nurses repre­sented by Washington State Nurses Associ­a­tion (WSNA) have held 10 bargaining sessions over two months, but manage­ment refuses to invest in nurses and patient care. Nurses have asked the hospital to commit to safe staffing levels, fair compen­sa­tion to retain quali­fied nurses, and common-sense measures to ensure nurses’ safety and dignity on the job.

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Every nurse at St. Joe’s wants to provide the best care for our patients,” said Yunna Flenord, an RN in St. Joe’s Inten­sive Care Unit (ICU), But we’re stretched so thin that often we’re strug­gling to provide just basic care. If you get sick, you deserve to have a nurse who can answer your questions and provide compas­sionate care. Sadly, that’s just not the case with staffing the way it is today.”

Nurses at St. Joe’s earn the lowest pay of any major hospital in the Tacoma area, including a huge 13.8% gap between St. Joe’s and Multi­care Auburn. Prior to the pandemic, St. Joe’s already had turnover rates far above national averages. With the lowest pay in the region, chronic under­staffing, and safety concerns, St. Joe’s nurses are leaving their jobs at a high rate.

I’ve said too many goodbyes to nurses who made the hard decision to leave for jobs where they were treated fairly,” said Dakota Eckman, a first-year nurse in St. Joe’s nurse residency program. I don’t under­stand why a company that made more than $5 billion in profit in the last year won’t pay enough to keep good nurses who want to work here.”

In addition to staffing and pay, nurses at St. Joe’s say the hospital’s inaction puts them in danger. Nurses have been seriously injured by patients. Nurses have also been followed and harassed when coming and going from their cars, and been victims of car break-ins.

We’re not asking for the moon,” said Emily D’Anna, a Labor & Delivery nurse at St. Joe’s. We just want a guarantee that there will be security in place to keep us safe from the time we pull into the parking lot until we get back on the road home. Is that really too much to ask?”

St. Joe’s nurses are demanding the hospital provide:

Safe nurse staffing #

Safe staffing saves lives and ensures nurses can provide safe care to every patient. Chronic under­staffing at St. Joe’s has led to a 600% increase in reports of unsafe staffing at St. Joe’s since the first quarter of 2020, with a similar increase in reported incidents where unsafe staffing posed a serious threat to the health and safety of a patient.

Fair pay to retain nurses #

St. Joe’s nurses provide their commu­nity with excel­lent care, but their pay is the lowest for nurses at Tacoma-area hospi­tals. St. Joe’s parent corpo­ra­tion, Common­Spirit, brought in $5.45 billion in profit in Fiscal Year 2021. It’s time for Common­Spirit and St. Joe’s to provide compet­i­tive pay and benefits so quali­fied nurses will stay at the hospital.

Safety measures to protect nurses #

In recent incidents, nurses have been assaulted at work, harassed on their way to and from the parking lots, and been the victims of vehicle break-ins. St. Joe’s refuses to take common-sense steps that would help protect the nurses who serve our community.

Recognition of Juneteenth as a holiday #

Despite numerous state­ments on the need for racial justice, Common­Spirit refuses to recog­nize Juneteenth as a holiday for holiday pay. Nurses serve — and come from — the local commu­nity, which is one of the most diverse in the Tacoma area with a signif­i­cant Black population.

Background on St. Joe’s nurse contract bargaining.