One year after their strike ended, nurses represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association have taken formal steps to redress ongoing staffing issues at Allina Health hospitals in the Twin Cities, which were mutually agreed to in the 2016 contract agreement.
"The contract issue remains the role of the charge nurse," said Emily Sippola, a charge nurse at Allina-owned United Hospital. "To settle the strike, Allina management agreed to work with nurses to take away a mandatory patient assignment from the charge nurse. One year later, we're still waiting."
A charge nurse oversees a particular unit in the hospital. The charge nurse's duties include doling out assignments, assisting less experienced nurses, tending to emergent situations, and taking care of hospital equipment. Most charge nurses don't have their own patients to care for, but continued short staffing at Allina hospitals has required them to have their own patients as well as running the floor.
"It's like flying a plane while also working as an air traffic controller," Sippola said. "You wouldn't want to be a passenger on that plane or a patient whose nurse is also directing traffic. Nurses have been calling out this growing safety risk to patients. It's a big reason why nurses felt they had to go on strike last year."
Nurses at Abbott, Mercy, United and Unity hospitals have formally demanded a mediator step in and help resolve the contract issue.
They also delivered a petition to company headquarters, the Allina Commons, on Wednesday afternoon. Nurses from each Allina-owned hospital in the Twin Cities signed the petition.
"Nurses have been meeting with some Allina managers at the hospitals already," Sippola said, "but we still don't have a company-wide plan to staff enough nurses to ensure the charge nurse can do his or her job without jeopardizing a patient's care."
Despite reaching a contract agreement that settled the nurses' strike on Oct. 11, 2016, it's clear nurses are disappointed that Allina Health leaders have not kept their word on this issue, the union said. Hundreds of nurses have left Allina hospitals for other jobs in the Twin Cities. MNA nurses returned to work last fall working alongside some of the replacement nurses who took their jobs during the strike.