Outside North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale, MN, hundreds of nurses marched the picket line for the second day of a three-day strike meant to raise awareness on three major issues: patients are overcharged, hospitals are understaffed and nurses are overworked.
”It all comes down to staffing,” says North Memorial nurse Vanessa Petty. “We’ve been overworked. It’s always been a problem, but the pandemic made it even worse and brought it to the forefront.”
Nurses focused on safe staffing
As a level one trauma center, North Memorial medical staff, like nurse Lankia Lartey, provide care for patients suffering from life-threatening injuries that require immediate attention. She carried a sign that read “Safe staffing means breaks every shift.”
“When you look at the intensity of the patients that we take care of … it’s not safe to work for eight hours with no break,” says Lartay whose been a nurse for 11 years. “You need to recover. You need to be able to debrief at some point within your shift to go back and do your work.”
Aurielle Pearson is another nurse at North Memorial and says she often leaves a shift feeling defeated. “When we are so short staffed, patients are angry they have to wait so long for care, and they take it out on me. I want to help them, but there’s nothing I can do if we don’t have the staff.”
Along with better working conditions, the nurses are asking for around a 30% pay increase over the next three years.
A statement from the Twin Cities Hospital Group says, in part, “The nurses’ union has chosen to strike before exhausting all efforts to reach an agreement … and has held fast to wage demands that were unrealistic, unreasonable and unaffordable.”
This strike impacts more than a dozen hospitals across the state of Minnesota.
Caretakers to all
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 91% of nurses are women.
“Not only taking care of our families at home, we are taking care [of patients] in the hospital,” says Petty. “We still have our own lives and our own problems to deal with.”
This goes back to the need for safe staffing.
”You don’t want to come to work and not get a break because by the time you get home, you don’t have energy to to be with your family or do anything for them,” says Lartay.
The Minnesota Nurses Association says, since March, nurses have been pressing hospital executives both to solve the crises of short-staffing, retention and patient care in Minnesota hospitals.
The nurses have been working without a contract for the last several months and will return to the picket line at 7 a.m.