RNs at MedStar Washington Hospital Center Overwhelmingly Approve Contract with Improved Patient Safety Protections
Registered nurses with National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United at MedStar Washington Hospital Center voted overwhelmingly this past weekend to ratify a new five-year contract. The contract, covering 1,900 registered nurses at the hospital, features a host of improvements and protections for both nurses and patients.
A major win in the contract is a provision to immediately add 30 resource nurses. These nurses will not have patient assignments, but will be able to assist their nurse colleagues in daily duties and can be called on to provide them meal and break relief in a timely manner.
“This is a huge win for us and our patients,” said Stephanie Sims, RN, who has worked as a nurse at MedStar Washington Hospital Center for 14 years. “Resource nurses are often very experienced nurses who can assist nurses with any number of things. These could range from aiding in admissions to mentoring younger nurses who may be unfamiliar with how to start a certain medication or do an unfamiliar procedure.”
The contract also includes a provision which gives nurses an expanded role in addressing patient safety matters. As patient advocates, it is imperative that nurses have a collective voice in addressing patient care issues, including staffing, safety, supplies, and equipment. This new contract expands the number of hours of and increases the membership of the Professional Practice Committee (PPC), a committee of RNs who meet with management on a regular basis to address issues that arise within the hospital.
“I am really very excited about this as the PPC is really important in figuring out how to solve problems as they come up in our hospital,“ said Erica Ward, RN, who has worked at MedStar Washington since 2010. “We are always working on staffing issues and we have had problems with our equipment, even basic equipment such as thermometers and blood pressure monitors. The PPC has the power to negotiate with management to create a safer environment for our patients.”
Other highlights of the contract will help retain and recruit high-quality nurses to MedStar Washington Hospital Center. These include:
Workplace violence protections. If nurses aren’t safe, patients aren’t safe. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show a health care worker is nearly five times more likely to be the victim of a nonfatal assault or violent act than the average worker in all other major industries combined. The new contract states MedStar Washington Hospital Center must have a comprehensive workplace violence plan in place.
Union rights, respect, and dignity. It is important for nurses to have strong union rights, to allow them to advocate for their patients without fear of retaliation. This contract includes language which ensures nurses have more protections from arbitrary disciplinary action.
Economic gains to improve nurse recruitment and retention. The new contract includes an average wage increase of 8.5 percent and a maximum increase of 14 percent effective March 1, 2019. Over the five-year life of the contract, wages are set to increase by up to 35.5 percent.