Seattle – Virginia Mason, a Seattle hospital founded in 1920, is the latest battleground for nurses.
The 650 nurses, represented by the Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), are holding a picket outside the hospital on Oct. 10 to demand protections against workplace violence and better staffing through retaining nurses.
The picket comes after 15 bargaining sessions, including multiple sessions with a federal mediator.
Date/Times: Oct. 10, 2023, 6 – 8:30 a.m. and noon – 2 p.m. (Rally with speakers)
Location: 925 Seneca Street
- April Sims, president of the Washington State Labor Council, which represents more than 600 union locals and 550,000 union members in the state.
- State Rep. Liz Berry (D-Seattle), chair of the House Labor Committee.
- Nurses from the hospital who are going to tell their story.
Summary of main issues:
The nurses say their concerns about safe staffing and workplace violence are being ignored by management. Virginia Mason became part of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, after being acquired in 2021 by CommonSpirit Health, formerly known as Catholic Health Initiatives & Dignity Health.
CommonSpirit Health is the nation’s largest nonprofit hospital chain with 140 hospitals in 21 states.
Hundreds of nurses signed a petition of concern around workplace safety.
Nurses say patients regularly bring weapons into the hospital. One nurse was stabbed in the face with a butter knife. Another nurse missed being hit in the head with a claw hammer.
Nurses have presented anti-workplace violence proposals to management on measures Virginia Mason should take, including having visitors to the hospital register at a front desk, limiting the number of publicly accessible entrances, metal detectors, dogs, and an effective and responsive security team.
These are common-sense safety measures that other local hospitals currently use and that are recommended by the American Hospital Association.
Management responded by proposing that an advisory task force meet periodically to discuss recommendations, a suggestion that nurses consider dismissive of current threats.
Nurses’ workload is increasing as the hospital has been losing nursing staff and cutting the contracts of travel nurses.
Med-surg nurses are regularly seeing assignments of six patients, and on especially short days, seven patients. This is even higher than the midst of the pandemic, say nurses.
From July 2023 to Aug. 2023, the net number of registered nurses dropped by 60 – that’s a decrease of 9.5% of registered nurses, according to hospital data.
Multiple departments in the hospital have seen turnover of over 100% from July 2022 through June 2023. One med-surg department experienced 188% turnover in that period.
The hospital has a lack of experienced nurses. The hospital’s own data shows that 40% of all registered nurses have less than one and one-half years of experience as RNs.
Creating a safe workplace would drastically turn things around. The nurses say CommonSpirit needs to work with them – not against them. Nurses are the frontline of healthcare and spend more time with patients than physicians.
Other hospitals in the region are seeing a net increase in nurses, including Seattle Children’s, UW Medicine, Tacoma General. Good contracts addressing nurses’ issues turned things around.
Nurses at Virginia Mason need improved staffing and better security against workplace violence to stay at the hospital and attract new nurses.
WSNA is the leading voice and advocate for nurses in Washington state, providing representation, education and resources that allow nurses to reach their full professional potential and focus on caring for patients. WSNA represents more than 17,000 registered nurses for collective bargaining who provide care in hospitals, clinics, schools and community and public health settings across the state.