Union nurses picket at St. Louis U hospital

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NURSES FROM SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY and Des Peres Hospitals and supporters of National Nurses Organizing Committee-Missouri, the state affiliate of National Nurses United, picketed on Monday, March 11, at Saint Louis University Hospital in St. Louis. – Whitney Curtis photo
NURSES FROM SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY and Des Peres Hospitals and supporters of National Nurses Organizing Committee-Missouri, the state affiliate of National Nurses United, picketed on Monday, March 11, at Saint Louis University Hospital in St. Louis. – Whitney Curtis photo

More than 100 nurses from Saint Louis University (SLUH) and Des Peres hospitals conducted informational picketing March 11 as part of a national Day of Action at Tenet-owned hospitals across America calling for their professional input into patient care issues.

Nurses at both hospitals have been organized by the National Nurses United (NNU) union and are presently attempting to win their first contract. Negotiations were ongoing at both hospitals.

Carmen Moorehead, a registered nurse at SLUH for 38 years, said nurses were picketing to raise awareness of patient care concerns raised and documented by nurses including those about staffing, safe lifting, equipment, policies and procedures.

“We’re most concerned about the quality of patient care,” Moorehead said.

STAFFING A PROBLEM

Depending on what unit they’re assigned to, Moorehead said nurses at SLUH can have up to six patients under their care at one time.

For the sickest patients, that can create problems.

“It can be trying,” Moorehead said. “This is about getting more available nurses, or having enough staff numbers. In order to get the quality care that our patients need, nurses’ workloads must be based on patient needs, because every patient that comes into the hospital has different needs.”

Moorehead said having more nurses on duty would help ensure that nurses can meet each patient’s medical and personal needs, as well as helping to educate their families so they can return home with fewer complications.

“All we want to do is provide quality care to our patients,” Moorehead said. “In order to do that, we must have our workloads based on the patients’ needs.”

Alesse Miller, a registered nurse in the Accute Care for the Elderly unit at Des Peres Hospital, deals with some of the sickest patients, people who have multiple diagnoses with complex care needs.

“It’s a concern,” she said of nurse staffing levels at Des Peres, which she said are often short due to having nurses “on-call” rather than on-duty at the hospital.

“It’s very stressful because they’re working us on minimal staff,” Miller said. “If they’d let that other person work, then the care would be a lot better.”

Miller said on-duty nurses at Des Peres sometimes have up to six patients to care for at one time. The nurses are suggesting that number should be between one and four.

LEGISATIVE ACTION

The nurses may get some help addressing their concerns from the Missouri Legislature.

Miller said the nurses will be traveling to Jefferson City on March 27 to lobby for legislation mandating adequate staffing to maintain safe lifting standards in hospitals.

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