Citing concerns over safety for both patients and staff, nurses at Western State Hospital held an informational picket and Eastern State nurses marched on DSHS Wednesday to call on Governor Inslee and CEOs Ron Adler and Dorothy Sawyer to address safety and staffing concerns.

Chronic staffing shortages and high turnover has nurses concerned that patients aren’t getting the care they need, and leave both patients and staff open to ongoing assaults and injuries.

Barbara-Shelman“We care for the most vulnerable population. Recruiting and keeping qualified RNs with a commitment to the kind of work we do is essential in providing good and safe patient care. But we can’t do that when we keep losing staff and the state won’t make a commitment to invest in quality care,” said Barbara Shelman, an RN2 at Western State Hospital.

With nurse wages up to 18-19% below the market standards, many state nurses can’t afford to continue providing care at Western State Hospital, with a notable 25% turnover rate over two years among nurses. Eastern State Hospital has a 17.4% vacancy rate for the major nurse job classification.

sharon-silar-(2)“I was injured by a patient that resulted from unsafe staffing conditions due to high turnover and the inability to keep qualified nursing staff. RNs who work at Eastern State Hospital have a commitment to quality patient care that includes not only a safe environment for our patients but also our co-workers. We can’t continue to operate in the same manner we currently do. We need the state to make the same commitment to us as we do our patients,” said Sharon Silar, an RN2 at Eastern State Hospital.

Nurses called on state leaders to:

  • Make safety a priority: invest in the staffing every patient needs with a permanent float pool and minimum staffing ratios.
  • Halt turnover with recruitment and retention wages and affordable health benefits to keep qualified staff.
  • Prioritize quality training and education for staff.

Linda-Holbrook,-RN2“It’s all too common that patients and staff are assaulted. I’ve been assaulted several times, as have my co-workers. Unsafe working conditions have resulted in permanent injuries and life-changing disabilities for some of my co-workers. This isn’t quality care for our patients, and it’s not safe for us. We know the answer: we need more staff to prevent this from happening, and we need to stop turnover,” said Linda Holbrook, an RN2 at Western State Hospital.

Nurses were joined by community and elected leaders including Rep. Tami Green, Rep. Laurie Jinkins, Rep. David Sawyer, candidates Tammey Newton, Christine Kilduff, Carl Williams, and Josh Arritola.

2014 Official Notice of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW Executive Board and DSHS Officer

Election at DSHS – Western State Hospital (WSH)

– This is a Rerun Election Pursuant to the Decision of the Election Board –

Elections for the following offices will be held:

–          Executive Board Member – 1 position available

–          DSHS Officer positions – 1 position available for each of:

  • DSHS/WSH Chair
  • DSHS/WSH Vice Chair
  • DSHS/WSH Corresponding Secretary


In order to be nominated to run for any position, you must be a member in good standing*.

In order to be eligible to sign a nominating petition, you must be a member in good standing* as of May 31, 2014.

Nominating petitions will be available on June 2, 2014 from Henry Brudney (henryb@seiu1199nw.org or 425-917-1199).  A member who wishes to run for both an Executive Board position and DSHS Officer position must submit a separate petition for each position.

To be nominated to run for either the Executive Board position or any of the DSHS Officer positions, you must have at least 10% of the DSHS/WSH bargaining unit members in good standing* sign your petition. 

All Nomination petitions must be received at the SEIU Healthcare 1199NW office in Renton, WA by no later than 5:00pm on June 30, 2014. The Renton Office Address is: 15 S. Grady Way, Suite 200, Renton WA, 98057.

Candidates who submitted nomination petitions will be notified by July 2, 2014, whether or not they received the necessary 10% of bargaining unit member signatures to be successfully nominated for the position(s) for which they are running. All successfully nominated candidates in good standing* will appear on the ballot.


To be eligible to vote, one must be a member in good standing* as of July 1, 2014.

A ballot package including voting instructions, candidate statements, ballots, ballot envelopes and return envelopes will be mailed on July 18, 2014. Note: Ballot packages will only be sent to members in good standing* as of July 1, 2014.

Ballots must be returned to PO Box 1040, Renton, WA  98057 no later than 3:00pm, August 8, 2014 in order to be counted.

On August 8, 2014 – Ballots will be counted and the results of the election will be announced.

For more information, contact Henry Brudney at 425-917-1199 or henryb@seiu1199nw.org.

* A member in good standing has signed a membership card and is current in his/her dues.

Using our strength at the bargaining table, nurses at Eastern and Western State Hospital won an agreement with DSHS to review the crtitical problems of safety and violence at our hospitals.  Together with DSHS we released the report and received lots of media attention.

We’re looking forward to working together with DSHS to implement the report’s recommendations, including staffing improvements.

Read the press coverage:

KUOW: Assaults a constant disruption at state mental hospitals  http://kuow.org/post/assaults-constant-disruption-state-mental-hospitals

KOMO News: Review: violence on the rise at Western State Hospital  http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Review-Violence-on-the-rise-at-Western-State-Hospital–227313821.html

Seattle Times: Report: Violence on the rise again at Western State Hospital   http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2021997848_statehospitalattacksxml.html#

Read the full report here. 

Our new contract provides for elimination of leave without pay days, improvements on safety, improvements on staffing including a float pool pilot at Western State Hospital, new language on the removal of disciplinary documents, improved transfer language, and remedies for nurses working consistently forty-five (45) hours in a workweek. We agreed to have consultants assist with safety issues at both Western State Hospital and Eastern State Hospital, and a consultant on ergonomic issues for nurse consultants.

“Winning a Float Pool pilot is a big step for improved staffing at Western State Hospital. Float pools provide for an efficient way to provide client care coverage on a daily basis. ” – Paul Vilja, RN3, WSH

“Nurses’ ability to have ergonomic assessments done in the field is a big win for nurse consultants because it will improve safety working conditions. Also now we can be sure that the state equipment we use is properly maintained.” – Betty Diaz, Nurse Consultant
“Getting rid of these unpaid leave days will lead to better staffing; this will help us to give our clients the care they deserve.” – Mark Sweeney, RN3, Lakeland Village


“Our new safety committee language holds management accountable to safety recommendations. Now the real work begins. Members need to use all the provisions of our contract to make it really work for us.” -Trish Canyock, RN2, Rainier School


“Our contract is the best tool we have to make sure that our workplaces are safe and staffed appropriately. We all need to get involved as we grow the strength of our union.” – Sharon Silar, RN2, Eastern State Hospital

SEIU Healthcare 1199NW

15 S. Grady Way, Suite 200 Renton, WA 98057 | 425-917-1199
Paid for in part by SEIU COPE, with voluntary contributions from SEIU members and their families. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.