Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), representing over 400 registered nurses at Providence Holy Family Hospital, is holding an informational picket today from 2 - 6 pm on the corner of Central and Lidgerwood in front of the hospital to highlight issues critical to patient safety and nurse retention during difficult contract negotiations. Nurses at Holy Family have been fighting for patient safety measures such as safe staffing and an adequate preceptorship program for new nurses. A key concern is that the proposed contract will make it difficult to recruit and retain great nurses, directly impacting patient care.
The administration has resisted WSNA’s efforts to specify appropriate staffing levels in the contract. Additionally, the administration’s proposal to have nurse preceptors – the mentors that train new nurses – manage multiple new nurses at a time threatens the ability of preceptors to provide the one-on-one, hands on training required to prepare new nurses. Excellent nursing care can mean the difference between life or death for patients, and these mentorships for new nurses are critical in preparing them for the challenges ahead.
In the interest of reducing nurse fatigue and burnout, nurses have proposed changes to their designated rest between shifts that would incentivize the hospital to give nurses a solid block of rest time without calling them back to work during that time. This rest is critical in providing nurses the opportunity to recharge and be ready at the start of their next shift. Currently, if a nurse is on call and called back to work, in many instances such time is excluded from the rest between shifts guidelines, meaning that time is still counted as rest time despite the fact that nurses are working. The nurses are pushing to remove this exemption so that rest time is truly rest time and the hospital has an incentive to ensure nurses get this critical time away from work.
“I love working at Holy Family and caring for this community. I take great pride in working with such an amazing group of skilled and compassionate nurses, but we need the hospital to be a partner with us in providing the best possible care. We need to keep our great nurses here, we need to continue attracting the best new nurses and training them the right way, and we need to have a voice in decisions that affect our patients. Being a nurse is incredibly rewarding but also incredibly challenging. Pushing nurses to work harder and work longer is not the right direction for our patients and this community,” said Martha Goodall, a nurse at Holy Family and member of the negotiating team.
Nurses are concerned about the potential impact to recruitment and retention of nurses at Holy Family. Wages at Holy Family currently lag behind those of Sacred Heart Medical Center, also owned by Providence. There is a significant amount of crossover and integration of services and personnel between the two Providence hospitals. Management’s compensation proposal would increase the pay gap between the two hospitals, and nurses have expressed deep concern that it will make Holy Family an increasingly less desirable place to work. Management has also proposed that it be able to take away certain healthcare options over the life of the contract without bargaining with the nurses, making the overall compensation and benefits package even less competitive.
“Holy Family is a great hospital with great nurses. We just can’t understand why Providence would choose not to invest in both Holy Family and Sacred Heart. When patients come to Holy Family, they deserve to have the highest level of care with excellent nurses at the bedside, just like Sacred Heart or any other hospital in the region. This community deserves a commitment from Providence that they value all of their patients and all of their nurses,” said Christine Himmelsbach, MN, RN, WSNA Director of Labor Relations.