When we stand together and stay strong for the long haul, we win big for our patients and our families.
After 20 long months fighting for better staffing and better care, including picketing and a sub-zero weather strike, 1,000 nurses and healthcare workers at Valley Hospital and healthcare workers at Deaconess Hospital won a breakthrough agreement that gives us a stronger voice in staffing and invests in frontline caregivers.
“We stood united for our patients and it made a huge difference,” said Tami O’Marro, a Registered Nurse at Valley Hospital. “For all our neighbors who supported us through our strike and our long campaign, know that every patient who comes to our hospital will get better care because we took action together.”
Nobody knows what patients need like their nurses, and now those nurses have the power to fix serious staffing shortages. The new agreement creates a “staffing alert” process where charge nurses can call an alert, authorizing management to call in more nurses or approve overtime. When patient safety is on the line, nurses can make the call for backup.
“Our hospitals will now listen more closely to us when we say staffing is too low,” said Mary Robinson, a Central Sterile Tech at Deaconess Hospital. “We also won restrictions on low census so that they can’t send us home early when our patients need us.”
The agreement also increases the hospitals’ investment in its workforce, better positioning the hospitals to recruit and retain a dedicated, experienced workforce. Across-the-board raises plus market adjustments mean staff wages will compete better with area hospitals. A new cap on how often the hospitals can send staff home early or call them off work means more stable jobs plus more staff in the hospital to help with long-term projects. Plus the hospital agreed to allow workers to use sick time- rather than vacation time- when they call in sick.
The nurses and healthcare workers are keeping up their fight to improve staffing statewide and will pursue legislation to create nurse staffing minimums in Olympia next session.