Registered nurses at St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s hospitals will hold a 24-hour strike Friday to protest a lack of investment in the nursing staff by the facilities’ owner.
The strike will begin at 7 a.m. Friday and end at 6:59 a.m. Saturday. Picket lines will be present outside each hospital throughout the day and an official rally will take place at 10 a.m. Friday.
Both hospitals will remain open during the strike.
The strike comes during contract negotiations between the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United and Tenet Healthcare Corp, owner of Carondelet Health Network. RN strikes will also be held at 10 other Tenet-affiliated hospitals in California, Florida and Texas.
“We are going to be striking on Friday for our patients, so that they can get optimal care,” said Fawn Slade, a registered nurse at St. Joseph’s. “We are urging the hospital to invest in the nursing staff and take that step to strengthen the recruitment and retention of experienced, registered nurses.”
In October 2018, nurses at St. Joesph’s and St. Mary’s voted to unionize after Tenet, a Texas-based company, took over Carondelet three years prior. With this ownership change, the Catholic hospital chain went from nonprofit to for-profit.
The strike planned in Tucson will mark the first ever demonstration by registered nurses across the state. Union organizers are expecting more than 500 nurses from St. Joseph’s and more than 350 from St. Mary’s to participate in the strike.
According to Slade, RN’s at both hospitals are concerned about staffing and how it’s affecting their patients. At St. Joseph’s, nurses say they are overwhelmed by the number of patients they have to care for at a time.
“Well established research shows that there’s a clear link between registered nurse staffing levels and good patient outcomes,” Slade said. “At St. Joseph’s Hospital, our staffing grid allows for eight patients per nurse in the Progressive Care Unit. But the research shows that the optimal ratio for that Progressive Care Unit would actually be one nurse for every three patients.”
According to the American Nurses Association, there is a nurse staffing crisis in the country and appropriate staffing levels have proven effective on patient mortality rates, complications and the amount of time they spend in the hospital.
“As a nurse, I’m seeing people in their darkest hour,” Slade said. “I feel that I have a calling and a responsibility to those people to do my very best to make that darkest hour a little bit brighter and to ensure that what they’re going through now will not hinder them for longer than is necessary.”
Slade and other registered nurses say better working conditions would also provide better incentives for registered nurses to keep working in the field.
According to the Arizona State Board of Nursing and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 37,000 people in Arizona who hold active RN licenses but do not work as nurses.
“Some of these are retired or unemployed, but we believe that there’s a vast majority who are choosing not to work in the field and we feel that a strong contract would attract these nurses back to the bedside,” Slade said.
Tenet officials said in a statement that the company values the nursing staff at its facilities and would continue working to resolve contract negotiations.
“We have been negotiating in good faith with union representatives over the last few months in an effort to reach a new contract, which we have made considerable progress on, and we will continue to negotiate in hopes of reaching a successful resolution,” the statement said.