MT. VERNON, Wash., June 21, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), representing over 440 registered nurses at Skagit Valley Hospital, is holding an informational picket today to highlight issues critical to patient safety and nurse retention. Over the course of the day, nearly 300 nurses and community members will gather in front of Skagit Valley Hospital to speak out and educate the public about key concerns including changes to overtime, the ability to retain experienced nurses and drastic wage cuts.
Proposed changes to the way overtime pay is calculated would make it easier for management to work nurses past their shifts. Nurses are concerned about the potential of increased fatigue and burnout, which can lead to more medical and medication errors. When nurses work overtime, it is often because management has not adequately staffed the unit and nurses must stay on duty to ensure patient safety. Without a financial penalty for working nurses past their shifts, management can simply rely on nurses working longer hours rather than having an adequate staffing plan. The hospital is also proposing a series of changes that would give them drastically more power to change nurses' working hours at will and reassign nurses to different shifts or units without any input from the affected nurses.
"These proposals are just shortcuts that come at the expense of nurses and patient care. Working nurses longer hours will have a direct impact on our patients. I'm constantly managing critical life and death situations for my patients. It requires focus and alertness throughout the entire day, and I'm exhausted by the end of my shift. If I'm not getting paid overtime for working after my shift ends, then management has no incentive to relieve me. If we had adequate staffing plans, management wouldn't need to propose these shortcuts and quick fixes," said John Tweedy, a registered nurse at Skagit Valley Hospital.
Nurses are also very concerned about proposed wage cuts and the impact it will have on the hospital's ability to recruit and retain nurses. At virtually every pay level, management is proposing wage cuts, with experienced nurses seeing the worst of it. Some positions will see pay cuts of over 30%. Skagit Valley Hospital is already paying nurses less than other hospitals in the region. Changes to seniority and layoff language further devalue the dedication of nurses who have spent their careers caring for patients at Skagit Valley.
"The Washington State Nurses Association has negotiated contracts with all types of hospitals across this state. None of these negotiations have resulted in the sweeping policy changes and drastic wage cuts that Skagit Valley Hospital management is proposing. It's truly unprecedented. With these proposals, the administration is saying they don't recognize or respect the critical role registered nurses play in providing safe patient care," said Christine Himmelsbach, MN, RN, Assistant Executive Director of Labor Relations for WSNA.
Founded in 1908, WSNA is the professional organization representing more than 16,000 registered nurses in Washington State. WSNA effectively advocates for the improvement of health standards and availability of quality health care for all people; promotes high standards for the nursing profession; and advances the professional and economic development of nurses.
SOURCE Washington State Nurses Association