Jack and Spike Show: A nurse is ‘one of the most difficult jobs ever’ amid strikes

Nov 6, 2023, 6:20 PM

Image:Jesse Cabe, center, and other registered nurses work in an ICU....

Jesse Cabe, center, and other registered nurses work in an ICU. (Photo: Mario Tama, Getty Images)

(Photo: Mario Tama, Getty Images)

Nurses in Providence Regional Medical Center, Everett (PRMCE) voted to walk out over what they described as unfair labor practices in October. The nurses blamed the hospital’s chronic understaffing, claiming it threatens the safety of both patients and staff.

“I’ve been talking about this now for two weeks and, on a personal note, I care about this because I care about two things: The health and well-being of the patients, but also the health and the well-being of nurses and hospital staff who are often overlooked,” Jack Stine, co-host of The Jack and Spike Show on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM, said.

More on nurses striking in Washington Virginia Mason professionals seek more staff, better safety

“I know several (registered nurses) and they have maybe one of the most difficult jobs ever,” Stine continued. “You’re on your feet like 10 hours a day, even 12, 13, 14 (hours). You’re constantly covering for other people for half a shift, meaning that you’re putting on another four to five hours after your day was supposed to be over.”

More than 1,300 nurses at PRMCE will go on strike next week. United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) 3000, the largest union in Washington, gave PRMCE a 10-day strike notice last week. The union confirmed the strike will begin at 6 a.m. local time on Nov. 14.

“We cannot be in every room at every time,” Christian Crowder, a labor and delivery nurse who’s also a union spokesperson, told KIRO Newsradio. “We are short staffed.”

Nurses have been striking throughout the state fervently in recent years. More than 3,000 healthcare workers with Kaiser Permanente voted in favor to strike, but the workers eventually agreed to a deal in mid-October. Earlier this year, more than 700 MultiCare Good Samaritan nurses voted to strike Wednesday night before coming to an agreement with the organization.

“But then, we also have the shortage of professors for nursing schools. We got Providence, we got Virginia Mason, we got UW, we got other hospitals within the region that are all looking at these upcoming graduates and saying, ‘come and work for us,'” KIRO Newsradio reporter Micki Gamez said on The Jack and Spike Show. “And then it’s a limited pool, right? There’s a limited pool, so you got a limited pool of students and a limited pool of teachers. Then you’ve got the hospitals that are all trying to fish in the same pond.”

Approximately 600 nurses have left or retired since 2021, and staffing issues have made working at the hospital a challenge for several months. Last June, hospital officials had to turn away new patients when they entered the emergency room due to overcrowding. Nurses said the emergency department lobby is often full with 40 to 50 patients, some waiting several hours to be seen, some receiving care in the lobby.

Nurse staffing has become an issue nationwide, with Kentucky’s governor declaring the state’s chronic nursing shortage as an emergency back in 2021.

Pandemic nurse shortage: Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declares an emergency

With less support staff comes longer wait times. The wait at the emergency room (ER) has been longer than three or four hours to see a doctor, depending on the issue. According to Hospital Stats, the shortest ER wait times within Seattle are at Swedish Medical Center (116 minutes and 144 minutes at the Cherry Hill location). Virginia Mason Medical Center’s wait time is 166 minutes on average while Northwest Hospital is 168 minutes.

The University of Washington Medical Center has a wait time of four hours, 19 minutes for emergency room visits while Harborview Medical is more than five hours.

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“And, in the background, Providence has been working in case this actually came to the forefront by hiring travel nurses,” Stine said. “Those positions are making an unbelievable amount of money.”

As hospitals have turned to travel nurses to ease staffing shortages, contract labor expenses rose by more than 250% during the pandemic, according to CNBC. In response to this, St. Peter’s Health Partners — based in Albany, New York — announced over the summer it will restrict anyone who lives within 50 miles of its facilities from being hired as a travel nurse. St. Peter’s Health Partners cited travel nurses can make more than four times the hourly wage compared to nurses working directly with St. Peter’s.

Listen to the Jack and Spike Show weekdays from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

KIRO Newsradio Opinion


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Jack and Spike Show: A nurse is ‘one of the most difficult jobs ever’ amid strikes