Editors note: This story has been updated to reflect proper attribution to the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United press release. Additionally, a quote from the union’s spokesperson has been updated with context.

AUSTIN (KXAN)– Ascension Seton nurses are poised to walk off the job if they don’t come to a contract agreement with the company.

The National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United said its 900 registered nurses at Ascension Seton Medical Center voted to authorize a one-day strike.

If that happens, the union group said it would be the first nurses strike in an acute care setting, as well as the largest nurses strike in Texas history.

“It was time to escalate and to really, you know, drive the point home that we can’t wait any longer,” registered nurse Lindsay Spinney said.

Spinney has been part of negotiations and said they’ve been meeting with their employer since November, with “little to no progress.”

According to the union’s press release, the group said Ascension needs to increase pay to keep and retain workers.

“By having those safe staffing levels, we’re able to do our job and to go home at the end of the day, as a nurse, knowing we did the best that we could for our patients. We’re able to have the support staff that we need, we’re able to have the supplies that we need– we just need the basics to run in a safe manner, at this point,” Spinney said.

She pointed to her own schedule as an example, saying she often has to take care of three to four critically ill infants at a time.

“We are helping them with their breathing, their feeding… It’s challenging to take care of one to two infants in that scenario, but much less four,” Spinney said.

In a statement to KXAN, Ascension Seton said while the company is disappointed by the union vote, they will continue to bargain in good faith, and have a plan in place in case nurses do strike.

“We continue to bargain in good faith with National Nurses United (NNU) to come to a mutually beneficial agreement on an initial contract that supports all and will further our combined goal of providing safe, compassionate care to those we serve. We respect our associates’ right to organize themselves through union representation and participate in a strike authorization vote.

This action is disappointing given that both bargaining teams continue to work towards an initial collective bargaining agreement and have multiple sessions scheduled through the end of June.

We have not received a 10-day strike notice from NNU. Should we receive an official strike notification, we have a comprehensive contingency plan in place to ensure our patients experience no disruption in care or service.”

Ascension Seton

Spinney said there is another negotiation coming up in a couple of weeks, and the union hasn’t yet set a possible strike date.

She said if they do move forward with a strike, they’d give the company a 10-day notice.

“They are given plenty of time to divert patients to reschedule elective surgeries to also hire nurses to work the strike,” Spinney said.

“Those temporary staff won’t be as productive as people who are used to working in the hospital,” UT McCombs Healthcare Innovation Initiative Director Kristie Loescher said.

Loescher said new faces might hurt handoffs between nurses and doctors.

“Handoffs are one of the most dangerous things that happen in a hospital. When I’m handed off from a surgical nurse to an ICU nurse, from an ICU nurse to a normal patient room nurse… Those are dangerous times because information can be lost,” Loescher, who worked in healthcare for 15 years, explained.

She pointed to a National Bureau of Economic Research study of nurse strikes in New York over 20 years. It found that in-hospital deaths increased by over 19% for patients admitted during a strike.

“A one-day strike is not going to cause that kind of impact. But strikes do have a direct impact on patient safety and patient care,” Loescher said.

Spinney said they hope it doesn’t get to that point, and they can agree on a contract with Ascension Seton soon.

“It would be to everybody’s best interest to avoid a strike,” she said.