Press Release

Chicago nurses to hold town hall to demand passage of Illinois safe staffing law

Four nurses inside hospital hold signs "Staff Up for Safe Patient Care"

Speakers will address the origins of — and solutions to — hospital staffing and workplace violence crises

Registered nurses with National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) will join elected officials and labor and community leaders for a town hall on Thursday, Aug. 24. Speakers will address the origins of and practical solutions to the short-staffing and workplace violence crises that put patient care at risk and push nurses to strike at Chicago medical facilities. Nurses will discuss how the proposed Illinois Safe Patients Limit Act provides a critical pathway to addressing these crises that negatively impact our patients and our communities.

“Our hospitals are refusing to hire the appropriate number of nurses required to safely care for our patients,” said Yulanda Clark, an emergency room registered nurse at Jackson Park Hospital in Chicago. “That’s why nurses voted unanimously to authorize a strike at Jackson Park Hospital July 25— because we can’t allow our patients’ health to be put at risk. The very future of the nursing profession is on the line. We are losing nurses from the bedside because their licenses and their patients are being put at risk. We need the Safe Patient Limits Act to keep more nurses at the bedside. The law mandating nurse-to-patient ratios has worked in California for years, and it will work here in Illinois. Our patients deserve nothing less.”

  • What: Town hall with RNs from University of Chicago Medical Center, Cook County Health, Jackson Park Hospital, and Community First Medical Center
  • When: Thursday, Aug. 24, 6 p.m.
  • Where: First Floor Conference Rm, 550 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60661
  • Speakers also include:
    • State Sen. Celina Villanueva
    • State Rep. Theresa Mah 
    • Don Villar, Chicago Federation of Labor Secretary-Treasurer

Nurses contend that hospitals are perpetuating the harmful myth of a “nursing shortage” to hide their refusal to staff units appropriately. The reality is that data shows clearly there is no true nursing shortage. In 2022, there were more than one million registered nurses with active licenses who were not employed as RNs. According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data on RN employment – updated April 2023 – there are 3,072,700 employed registered nurses in the United States. In comparison, there are 4,604,199 actively licensed RNs in the U.S., according to May 2023 data from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

In Illinois, as of May 2023 there are 228,307 actively licensed RNs, while BLS data from May 2022, indicates only 139,590 nurses are actively employed in the state. That indicates there are more than 88,000 RNs with active licenses who are not employed as nurses in Illinois. That’s not a shortage of nurses; it’s a staffing crisis.

“When the lack of staff means I can’t give every patient the attention they need, it takes a toll on me morally because I know they are not getting the care they need and deserve,” said Dan Sipkosky, an emergency room nurse at Community First Medical Center in Chicago. “We know that lack of appropriate staff leads to more violence in our hospitals. Our patients need health care professionals who can address their needs without unnecessary delays and who can respond to their agitation and distress before they are in a full blown crisis. And our communities deserve hospitals that are safe zones where they can safely heal.”

Cook County nurses say they are not surprised to see the Jackson Park nurses have authorized a strike over their staffing concerns. Cook County nurses say the lack of appropriate staffing is what led to their strike in 2021.

“We had to strike to force the hospital management to comply with their own staffing plans, which employers are required by law to submit to the Illinois Department of Public Health,” said Brenda Langford, an RN at Cook County Health. “The state needs to step up its game and hold hospitals accountable for failing to enact basic staffing plans that ensure patient safety. We have over 700 nursing vacancies at Cook County alone, and management keeps telling us to do more with less. Fewer nurses means your call light will go unanswered, your dirty bedpan goes unchanged, and you have no one to catch you when you are falling from your hospital bed. If hospitals provided the staff and resources needed to provide safe patient care, nurses wouldn’t be voting in overwhelming numbers to strike.”

CNA/NNOC/NNU represents more than 6,000 registered nurses across Chicago.

National Nurses Organizing Committee is an affiliate of National Nurses United, the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States with nearly 225,000 members nationwide. NNU affiliates also include California Nurses Association, DC Nurses Association, Michigan Nurses Association, Minnesota Nurses Association, and New York State Nurses Association.