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BREAKING: The nurse strike is over. Now what?

15,000 nurses are planning to return to patient bedsides after a 72-hour strike that ended without a new contract nor a plan to improve working conditions.

The strike ended at 7 a.m. and minutes later, the Twin Cities Hospital Group released a statement addressing claims that some returning nurses have been locked out. It says, in part, “The MNA’s false claims of a lock-out today are false. Our nurses will begin returning to work as needed as shifts come on.”

When asked to contextualize “as needed”, the group responded, “On floors where elective procedures are done, patients were postponed during the strike so the census count might be lower so a float nurse pool member wouldn't be needed if there weren't any patients. With 15,000 nurses, there are many scenarios but generally speaking nurses are coming back on line during the course of the day.”

Nurses tweet “stay tuned” and #Striketember

While Twin Cities Hospital Group spokesman Paul Omodt expects negotiations with the nurses union to resume next week, we know there is no set date at this time.

“We love our nurses. We respect our nurses, but the union chose this path,” said Omodt. “It was their choice to call a strike. It was their choice to reject mediation. Most reasonable people, if there’s a dispute, are not afraid to go to a referee to help them solve a problem.”

A labor shortage appears imminent

A recent analysis from McKinsey & Company shows if nurse retention doesn’t improve, the U.S. will likely face a severe labor gap of up to 450,000 nurses by 2025. Prior to the pandemic, the rate of nursing licenses grew at around four percent per year. Now, 29% of surveyed registered nurses said they’re “likely to leave their current role in direct patient care” if not leave the workforce entirely.

Nurses say existing issues at work were exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic. National Nurses United (NNU) released a report that showed staffing issues and workplace violence are the top concerns and nurses are experiencing alarming levels of moral distress and injury due to unsafe working conditions.

“Since our last survey in September 2021, even more nurses have reported feeling more stress and anxiety as well as feeling traumatized by their experiences caring for patients,” said NNU president, Zenei Triunfo-Cortez.

Determining a fair salary

Nurses I spoke with Tuesday said the strike was to raise awareness of unsafe staffing levels, and that it was normal to go entire shifts without a break..

While no amount of money can make up for poor working conditions, a bigger paycheck does help, especially for nurses with children at home. According to Department of Labor statistics, the average Minnesota nurse makes ~$81,000 a year.

“Right now, we’re in a [income] bracket where we might not get resources from the state or federal level, because we make too much. But we don’t make enough,” said North Memorial nurse, Aurielle Pearson. “I’m hopeful we can come to a decision that meets everyone’s needs.”

MNA proposed a 30 percent pay increase over the next three years, which would put the average salary for Minnesota nursery at ~$100,000 - a number the Twin Cities Hospital Group calls unrealistic in context of other salaried frontline workers like St. Paul police and Minneapolis teachers.

“We believe that all positions and categories should be competitively paid, and we’ve been consistent about that across the board,” Omodt said. “If you look at inflations from 2011 to 2021, the nurse salaries have gone up 74% which far outpaces inflation of that 10 year period.”

When asked to compare that amount to the millions hospital administrators currently make, Omodt said, “Healthcare in a hospital is more than just nurses and doctors. It’s ia whole care team, so we book our raises and rates to make everybody competitive, and that goes from the top to the bottom of the organization.”

Click here for the salaries of top administration at Allina, Essentia Duluth, Health Partners, M Health Fairview, North Memorial Health, St. Luke’s Duluth and Children’s Minnesota.