CINCINNATI — Nurses at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center have authorized their union to issue a strike notice if contract negotiations don't yield what they consider to be "safer" staffing levels.
RN Kelly Hickman-Begley said nurses are being asked to monitor too many patients at a given time, leading to potentially hazardous situations and staff burnout.
"When you're on the job and you're a nurse, the patient is always your priority," she told WCPO. "When we are working with higher numbers than are ideal, you worry if that's going to affect the patient care that you can provide."
It's why the Registered Nurses Association at UCMC has launched a campaign demanding "safe staffing now," handing out flyers, social media ads and even a billboard along Interstate 71.
"Nurse conditions are patient conditions," said Dominic Mendiola, a labor representative with the Ohio Nurses Association. "We're proposing…a contractual commitment for them to make swift and diligent efforts to staff to nationally recognized nurse-to-patient ratios."
According to the hospital, UCMC had 150 open nursing positions as of Friday and has hired nearly 500 nurses over the last fiscal year.
"There is a local and national shortage in nurses…but ensuring safe staffing levels is our highest priority, and we consistently meet all state regulatory requirements for staffing," said a hospital spokesperson in a written statement emailed out to the nursing staff Friday.
Hickman-Begley said a nursing shortage isn't just a hospital problem; it's a community problem, too.
"When you're sick, and your family member is sick, you have to go somewhere and you want to trust that the people taking care of your mom or your dad or yourself are doing it to the best of their ability," she said. "We'd love to see staffing ratios in our contract. To us, that is a real commitment in writing from the hospital to say that that is their goal, as well."
A union spokesperson said they will hold three bargaining meetings next week and that it plans to bargain in good faith.