Press Release

Nurses at University of Chicago Medical Center Vote Overwhelmingly to Authorize a Strike

University of Chicago

RNs charge UCMC refuses to address short staffing, insufficient equipment, and inadequate security protocols

Registered nurses at the University of Chicago Medical Center voted by an overwhelming majority to authorize their nurse negotiators to call a one-day strike if the issues RNs have been raising in ongoing contract negotiations remain unresolved, the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) announced today.

“We take no joy in leaving the bedside to walk the strike line, but if that is what it takes to get UCMC to address the chronic patient care issues that keep us from providing the highest quality of care to our patients, then we have no choice but to strike,” said Talisa Hardin, a registered nurse who works in the burn intensive care unit.

The nurses say chronic short staffing across the hospital, inadequate security protocols and plans, and insufficient equipment make it difficult for nurses to provide optimal care to their patients.

“We have tried repeatedly to get UCMC to address the chronic and widespread problem of short staffing that causes delays in care and potentially puts patients at risk, but they have turned a deaf ear to us,” said Hardin. “We have an obligation to our patients to advocate on their behalf and that is what we do at the bedside, at the bargaining table, and if it comes to it, on the strike line.”

Short Staffing & Insufficient Equipment
Between January 2017 and June 2019, the nurses documented more than 1,430 incidents in which they were concerned that insufficient staffing levels might lead to adverse outcomes for their patients. The main areas of concern centered on the failure of the hospital to provide staffing based on the individual needs of the patients, failure of the hospital to comply with its own staffing plan, and failure to provide necessary equipment, including IV pumps. An NNOC/NNU audit of UCMC staffing plans found that UCMC did not follow its own staffing plan 55 percent of the time.

Security Concerns
Nurses are also concerned that staffing levels are creating an environment that makes the hospital vulnerable to violence directed at patients, visitors, and staff. A survey of the nurses indicates that 67 percent had been threatened by a patient or a visitor, 32 percent said they had been kicked, and 28 percent said they had been hit or had an object (including a chair or a lamp) thrown at them.

Over the last four years, nurses have approached hospital management with a number of proposals to address the violence in the hospital including, education on de-escalation techniques, a protocol for identifying patients with an aggressive history, and additional staffing to sit with potentially violent patients.

No strike date has been set at this time, but should the bargaining team decide to move forward with a strike, nurses will provide hospital management 10 days advance notice so that UCMC can make appropriate preparations, including postponing elective procedures and making necessary patient transfers. Bargaininig is scheduled to resume on Sept. 5.

National Nurses Organizing Committee is affiliated with National Nurses United, the largest and fastest growing union of registered nurses in the United States with 150,000 members. NNU plays a leadership role in safeguarding the health and safety of RNs and their patients and has won landmark legislation in the areas of staffing, safe patient handling, infectious disease, and workplace violence prevention.