Press Release

WSNA response to meeting with Seattle Children’s leadership

‘When nurses stand together, change can happen’

Nurses on the Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit (PBMU) at Seattle Children’s were dealing with explosive workplace violence and asked for urgent help that received widespread media attention.

On Dec. 13, hospital leadership met with a group of nurses to discuss moving forward.

The talks went two hours and involved two nurses on the unit as well as eight members of the local unit of WSNA, the WSNA nurse representative, and members of Seattle Children’s management, including the chief nursing officer, the human resources director, and the vice president of Mental and Behavioral Health Services.

According to WSNA Nurse Representative Linda Burbank and PBMU nurses Henry Jones and Josh Pickett, the talks resulted in positive movement towards improving the conditions on the unit and creating a safer work environment.

They said the hospital has implemented changes that will likely increase safety on the unit and improve the quality of care that can be provided to the patients.

They said the hospital has agreed to permanent 24-hour security on the unit with significant increases in travel nurses and behavioral techs.

The hospital said it will be hiring seven travel nurses – six to start on Jan. 8 and one to start on Jan. 22. The hospital will also be hiring 20 travel behavioral techs – 13 to start on Jan. 8 and seven to start on Jan. 22. Behavioral techs work as coaches with the patients as they carry out therapy and other skills. The hospital also approved a recreational therapist and an occupational therapist based on nurses’ feedback.

And hospital leadership agreed on an expedited construction schedule on the unit by May 8.

However, nurses on the unit hope for more improvements. They are hopeful that their request for three permanent roles will be reconsidered. The nurses asked for a break nurse, resource nurse, and safety coach. The nurses on the unit believe this will greatly enhance safety and help retain existing staff.

The nurses would also like to see more collaboration on decisions to accept patients. Leadership said it would work collaboratively with nurses on admissions to the unit but turned down the nurses’ request for a mandatory checklist, which would allow a charge nurse to hold any admissions that would increase staffing.

The nurses said the hospital, however, missed the mark on timely collaborative engagement with the PBMU nurses.

“Their words embrace a collaborative spirit that their actions fail to support,” said Burbank.

Burbank said the PBMU nurses need to be involved in key conversations so that they have a meaningful opportunity to provide timely input to be considered by leadership prior to initiating change.

“Simply telling the nurses what has already been done is not 'collaborative' and it negates the nurses’ voices,” she said.

The nurses also said that it is vital the long-awaited changes be sustained and not just transient.

Fortunately, hospital leadership has been open to including the PBMU nurses in relevant future meetings.

“We are so proud of our nurses for bringing attention to the alarming conditions at Seattle Children’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit and the broken system of pediatric mental healthcare,” said WSNA Executive Director David Keepnews. “When nurses stand together, change can happen.”