Austin (KXAN) — A vigil Thursday evening highlighted hundreds of complaints from nurses in the newly-formed Ascension Seton chapter of the National Nurses United. They say hospital management is aware of their complaints and has taken no action. The hospital disagrees.
Nurses joined other union chapters doing the same across the nation Thursday night. Organizers of Austin’s vigil say frustrations with understaffing are the main reason for the demonstration.
Union member Taylor Critendon is an ICU nurse at Ascension Medical Center of Austin and says managers have ignored their complaints.
“We had 60 out of 70 of our nurses sign this letter that was asking to have negotiations regarding safe staffing ratios on my unit. And when that letter was given to my manager, the response was, I can’t accept this letter. And there is no staffing problem,” said Critendon.
KXAN obtained official union complaint forms that cite instances of “inadequate training, delayed response to hospital alarms, and delayed response to crying babies.”
Lindsay Spinney, also in NNU, and a NICU nurse says she adapts as best as she can to struggles caused by short staffing.
“I am responsible for these tiny, fragile beings. And I can’t really see all of their needs, if I’m taking care of four of them at once,” said Spinney.
Patient and nurse safety remain the true heart of the ongoing nurse’s shortage.
A former nurse who’s asked to remain anonymous says she was injured on the job. Her injury has ended her 25 years in the field as she has been unable to work in the same capacity.
She cites understaffing as the direct cause of her career-ending injury.
“I was injured, taking care of a patient that should have had more individuals helping them. But it was a heavy patient to lift. And technically, they should have been on a mechanical lift, and they were not. And we went to lift the person. And that’s when I was injured,” said the nurse.
Ascension Seton responded to the rally with the following statement:
As healthcare systems across the U.S. continue to experience nursing shortages, we have a robust workforce development program focused on recruiting and retaining nurses through our residency and fellowship program, our nurse scholarship program and partnerships with more than 40 schools of nursing, as well as community partnerships that support our growing healthcare needs.
The union event being held Jan. 26 is a bargaining tactic initiated by National Nurses United in the midst of contract negotiations. We respect the right of our associates to hold an informational assembly outside our facility and we will continue to negotiate in good faith. We look forward to a collaborative dialogue at the bargaining table.
Understaffing remains an issue across Texas and nation, say other nurses groups in the state.
The Texas Nurses Association has previously said shortages are being seen across Texas. In a release about Texas’ budget, the TNA called it a “crisis.”
The base budgets released last week in the legislature included more funding for the Nursing Shortage Reduction Program and the Nursing Faculty Loan Repayment Program.
“Having these funds proposed so early in the legislative session shows that Texas leaders understand the seriousness of the ongoing shortage and are rising to meet the demand,” said Serena Bumpus, DPN, RN, NEA-BC, CEO of the Texas Nurses Association. “It is a relief to know that our state leaders understand the urgency of addressing the nursing workforce challenges and are willing to invest in Texas nurses now and in the future. The NSRP will continue paying returns if the Legislature chooses to further fund the program.”