Press Release

UChicago nurses say “a strike is not off the table” due to patient safety concerns

Large group of nurses outside UChicago in cold weather holding signs calling for dignity and respect

Registered nurses at the UChicago Medicine will hold an informational picket and rally on Monday, Jan. 15, to demand the university address their patient safety concerns and settle their contract in a timely manner, announced National Nurses United (NNU) today.

“We’ve been at the bargaining table for three months. Unfortunately, it seems the administration refuses to take our patient safety concerns seriously,” said Elaine Mister, RN in the case management department. “We remember the administration’s stalling during our 2019 contract negotiations, and those tactics ultimately forced us to strike. If the university doesn’t address our patient safety concerns, a strike is not off the table.”

  • Who: UChicago nurses
  • What: Informational picket and rally
  • When: Monday, Jan. 15, 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., Rally at 8 a.m.
  • Where: UChicago Medicine (UCMC), 5800 S. Maryland Ave., Chicago, Ill., 60616

Nurses have continued to raise concerns about conditions in their facility as they fight for health care justice. On Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, they hope to honor Dr. King’s legacy fighting injustice in health care and at work. As Dr. King once said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman.”

Nurses are calling on the university to respect their need for appropriate staffing, training, and resources, as well as demanding management respond to workplace violence prevention proposals, all in order to provide the highest quality of patient care in a safe environment for patients, visitors, and staff.

“Pretty much every shift in the emergency room, I see a lot of emotions from patients waiting six to eight hours to get in a room to be seen,” said Jason Smith, RN in the adult emergency department. “I understand their frustration, but I also want to take care of my patients and make it home safely after each shift. That’s why we need management to get serious about safe staffing and workplace violence prevention plans, which are the best ways to prevent and deal with these escalations.”

“As nurses we are committed to providing every patient — and that means EVERY patient — with the highest quality care,” said Lea Sargent King, RN at Mitchell Hospital. “That’s why it’s disturbing to see the university’s failure to make a serious effort to address the staffing crisis at Mitchell Hospital, which treats a large percentage of vulnerable Medicaid patients. This deliberate understaffing is a form of systemic discrimination that does the deepest harm to those with the fewest resources.”

“When nurses are not given the resources to provide the highest quality of care, they suffer moral injury and distress, which leads them to leave our hospital,” said Allison Messer, RN in the neonatal intensive care unit. “The staffing crisis in our units has driven away more than 40 percent of our core staff since the start of the pandemic. Experienced nurses are critical resources for patients and for younger nurses. The university must listen to the nurses’ demands to improve our recruitment and retention of experienced nurses.” 

“We are in a staffing crisis for our sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) program, and it is about to get worse,” said Brandi McNally, RN in the adult emergency department. “We have a responsibility at this institution to grow and develop our program to serve our patients with staff jobs. Our SANE staffing crisis feels a whole lot like an unsolvable challenge right now, but it doesn’t have to be.”

“Our management makes us scrub into complex cases in the labor and delivery unit. Nurses are doing it, but it is not safe for the patient,” said Lisa Sampson, RN in the labor and delivery unit. “I love being a labor and delivery nurse. Our patients are complex, and they deserve nurses who feel confident and competent to scrub into cases. Being a teaching hospital means we’re a place where nurses should be learning, not forced to take on more than feels safe.

NNOC/NNU represents 2,800 nurses at UChicago Medicine.

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.