Nursing News Updates: Chicago Strike, Nursing Laws, & More
To say 2020 has been a turbulent year for nursing would be an understatement. In fact, the experts had it right when they declared 2020 to be the “Year of the Nurse” in late 2019. At Nursa™, we do our best to stay on our toes and keep our audience informed on the latest happenings in the nursing news world. Keep reading to learn more about the latest nursing news updates.
Chicago Nurses Strike Comes to a Close
In last week’s post, we covered the major strike happening in Chicago at the University of Illinois Hospital. Around 800 nurses went on strike, with their union citing plans for the strike to last 7 days. Reasons provided fueling the strike included compensation and patient ratios.
As such, the nurses’ strike came to a close on Saturday, September 19 with the nurses returning to work. According to the Illinois Nurses Association (INA), the hospital has offered small annual wage increases for the next four years and agreed to plans to hire over 200 nurses to address concerns of workload and nurse to patient ratios.
Hospital officials revealed that while a deal hasn’t been cemented, significant progress has been made and both sides are optimistic. They said their offer regarding increased wages would keep nurses at the University of Illinois Hospital “in the top 10% for pay compared to their peers in Chicago, Illinois, and throughout the U.S.”
Denver Nurses Push for Safe Staffing
Meanwhile in Denver, the nurses and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is working to see some changes to the state’s safe staffing requirements. Currently, hospitals are required for each unit to be staffed with one nurse at all times, regardless of the size of the unit or scope.
The Colorado Nurses Association is pushing for a two nurse per unit staffing requirement, but the Colorado Hospital Association says that simply requiring more nurses across the board “doesn’t take into consideration the flexibility that is needed”.
While the state department reviews regulations routinely, doing so this year seems especially important. Concerns over staffing during the COVID 19 crisis and nurse reports of feeling overwhelmed are being brought to attention.
Denver Nurses Provide Input
Public and stakeholder support for frontline worker input seems to be prevalent. Including an oversight process that would create a direct path to follow for workers who have concerns about safety is one idea that is being considered.
HealthOne hospitals report that their frontline staff contributes to their as-needed and annual staffing reviews. They say their staffing numbers are based on the illness and acuity of their patients coupled with the skill set of their different staff.
UC Health reports that they already have two staff on every unit and are furthermore initiating a “nursing workforce optimization” with the intent to include more frontline voices for decisions of staffing and other workplace issues.
Denver Considers Tying Staffing Plans to Licensing
Stronger staffing plans that clearly line out expectations and requirements and are tied to licensing are being suggested as well. Accordingly, if the health department received a complaint about staffing, they could review the staffing records of the facility, compare them to the staffing plan and determine whether the facility violated their licensure conditions or not.
Such a circumstance wouldn’t likely result in the hospital losing their license, but it would provide the health department with the power to demand changes in order for the hospital to return to an “in compliance” status.
North Carolina Nurses Win Union Vote
In Asheville, North Carolina, the Mission Hospital nurses finally voted for official union representation following a long battle amid the COVID 19 pandemic. To understand why this is a big victory, here’s a little background.
In February of 2019, the nonprofit Mission Hospital was purchased by Healthcare Giant, HCA. Following the takeover, reports of problems accessing PPE and basic supplies, startling staffing cuts, and bad communication have been widespread and persistent.
As COVID numbers rose, nurses at Mission Hospital were increasingly concerned about the availability and access to PPE. In April, although their vote for unionization had been delayed, the nurses rallied together and submitted a petition for PPE. The PPE petition was a small win for them, one nurse said, ” “There was zero transparency about how much PPE we had. We weren’t getting information about how many COVID patients we had. None of that was information that we were privy to until we used collective action to get that information. “
HCA Delayed Union Vote
In March of this year, the Mission nurses filed for a union election. The HCA fought the unionization effort and successfully delayed the vote stating, “[HCA] submits the election should not be scheduled prior to or during the time it and its healthcare professionals, including Registered Nurses, are dealing with the surge of Covid-19 patients and caring for those patients.”
In spite of the fact that HCA received almost $5 billion in government relief funding, nurses reported the corporation hired out expensive consultants for union-busting. Nurses came forward telling of how they had been asked to cover for another nurse while they were sent to meetings for “Labor Relations”. Nurses report these meetings were being demanded of them even as they struggled with low staffing levels and the rise of COVID 19 patients.
Mission Hospital Nurses Now Represented by National Nurses United
Despite the delays and anti-union consultants, Mission Hospital Nurses have what they wanted, union representation. They’re now part of the National Nurses United (NNU) which is by and large considered one of the most progressive unions and has been very active this year.
“We could not be more proud of the unity, the perseverance, and the patient advocacy and dedication of the Mission RNs to their patients, their colleagues, and their community,” said NNU and NNOC Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN. “At a time when nurses are in a daily battle with the deadly fight for their patients and their own lives in the era of COVID-19, they have demonstrated incomparable courage and resilience that is an inspiration to all of us.”
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