Bellevue Overlake Hospital nurses rally on I-405 overpass for safe patient care

Overlake Hospital nurses and community members rallied together on the Interstate-405 overpass on June 15 to spread awareness of what they claim are unsafe management proposals that could directly impact patient care.

Represented by the Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), which advocates for registered nurses to reach their full professional potential and focus on patient care, Overlake nurses have been in negotiations with the hospital for three months over the concerns of floating nurses outside of their specialty areas and receiving breaks every four hours.

“We’re trying to get Overlake to work with us,” said Overlake nurse, Matt Atkins. “We wanted to get the message out to the community that nurses need their rest breaks so they can come back and take care of their patients properly.”

Atkins also described the danger of floating nurses outside of their specialty areas.

“You don’t want a labor and delivery nurse to come take care of someone who just had a hip surgery. That nurse has been doing that for 10 years and they’ve been doing it very well,” he said. “When a labor and delivery nurse has to take care of an orthopedic patient, things get missed. It’s not safe for the patients.”

Andrew, another Overlake nurse, mirrored Atkins’ sentiments.

“When you go eight or 10 hours before you’ve sat down or ate, it’s harder to think critically in your job and that can have a real impact on patient safety,” he said. “If I were asked to float outside of my specialty of cardiac nursing, I would be very uncomfortable. There are specific things that different patient populations need and it’s not just what you know you don’t know how to do, it’s what you don’t know you don’t know how to do.”

Overlake officials could not be reached for comment.

The WSNA Director of Labor, Christine Watts, is a strong advocate for safe patient care at Overlake.

“We’re in negotiations, we’ve been coming to the table, and unfortunately, it’s taking an action like this to really waken up the administrators at the hospital that we absolutely need to have safe patient care and that includes staffing,” Watts said. “It’s all about patient safety, good care for the patients and nurses being taken care of so they can do their best.”

Watts said that Overlake Hospital wants to utilize their resources to the best of their ability. “They like to have the utmost flexibility and the least costly way to staff. By requiring nurses to ‘just be a nurse as a nurse,’ it’s obviously going to be more cost effective,” she said. “It costs less to hire the proper amount of nurses that you need and have the proper staffing.”

However, Watts argues, when the hospital isn’t staffed appropriately, “they cannot safely take their rest breaks … Nurses take their jobs seriously and will not leave their patients,” she said. An eighth negotiation meeting was held on Monday.

“We’re hoping that this [rally] serves as a wake-up call to the hospital that we are here and we’re not going to back down. We hope that we’ve sent the message loud and clear that the hospital needs to staff appropriately,” said Watts.

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