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.
“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.
“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.
“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.