Short-staffed with long hours, UM Health nurses push for better work conditions

Scores of University of Michigan Health nurses held a town hall rally in protest of their working conditions as they push for a new contract.

“The cracks are beginning to show – our retention is declining, our nurses are stressed, burned out, and overworked,” said Adam Paulsen, a pediatric ICU nurse.

The nurses, members of the U of M Professional Nurses Council, say they’re short-staffed, which leads to heavier workloads and forced overtime.

“I worked from 7 pm to 7 am, went home, slept four hours before I need to get up, shower, eat and go to work a 16-hour shift on four hours of sleep and a bowl of cereal,” said Michael Hoban , a neonatal ICU nurse.

All of it, these nurses say, compromise the care they provide to patients.

“We are drowning with no surface in sight,” said Melissa Carter, an adult emergency medicine nurse. “Patients have decompensated, went into cardiac arrest, psychiatric and dementia patients have wandered out of our building.”

But U of M Health says it is continuously recognized as Michigan’s Safest Hospital and the American Nurses Credentialing Center recently awarded it with nursing’s highest honor.

U of M health says “It makes staffing determinations with patient safety at the forefront of its decisions, and this has produced outstanding safety results.”

“We continue to deal with short staff supplies – both available medicine and resources, all while taking care of the sickest patients. And yet our dedication to the patients, we don’t waiver,” said Renee Curtis, RN, emergency department.

Right now the nurses council is negotiating with U of M for a new contract — they’ve been working under an expired agreement since July 1st.

U of M says its bargaining in good faith and the current offer to the nurses union includes pay raises, getting rid of mandatory overtime and $4,000 bonuses for members of the bargaining unit.

Thursday’s town hall comes on the heels of the nurses’ union filing a lawsuit and unfair labor practice charge against the university.

The University of Michigan Health plans to vigorously defend itself in the lawsuit filed by the um professional nurses council.

The complete statement from the University of Michigan Health on nurse negotiations is below:

“The University of Michigan Health plans to vigorously defend itself in the lawsuit filed by the UM Professional Nurses Council.

“University of Michigan Health makes staffing determinations with patient safety at the forefront of its decisions, and this has produced outstanding safety results. The health system continuously receives recognition as Michigan’s safest hospital with recent recognitions by top agencies, including:

“Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which designated UM Health with a five-star rating.

“US News & World Report, which named UM Health Michigan’s #1 hospital.

“Leapfrog Group, an independent national watchdog organization, which recognized UM Health with an “A” patient safety grade for 10 consecutive years.

“In addition, the American Nurses Credentialing Center awarded UM Health with Magnet Designation, nursing’s highest honor, which recognizes less than 10 percent of all hospitals in the nation for rigorous standards for quality patient care and nursing excellence.

“UM Health is one of only eight hospitals in the nation to be honored with Leapfrog, US News and CMS designations.

“We continue to bargain in good faith. Highlights of University of Michigan Health’s current contract offer to UMPNC include:

“Providing a 6% raise for nurses in the first year and 5% per year for the next three years, representing a 21% base pay increase.

“Providing a one-time $4000 bonus for each member of the bargaining unit after a contract is signed.

“Introducing a new salary step program for nurse practitioners with an average 20% increase over four years.

“Safely eliminating mandatory overtime.

“Although the labor agreement has officially expired, University of Michigan health’s nurses continue to work under the same terms and conditions of the expired contract and be paid at the same rate as before the expiration.

“University of Michigan Health is the clinical division of Michigan medicine.”

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