Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare industry. They are the ones who assist doctors and surgeons. They are often the ones who see more patients. And when they suddenly choose to strike, it can send a doctor’s office or hospital for a loop.
Nurses have been abused with low pay and long hours for far too long – and it’s only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those in Minnesota have finally decided to say enough is enough.
A three day strike hit Minnesota this past Monday over issues of understaffing and pay. The understaffing has only worsened over the years, particularly because of COVID.
Right now, the labor strike involves 15,000 nurses across seven healthcare systems within the Duluth and Minneapolis metro areas.
Health care systems are doing everything they can to continue operating – and that includes recruiting temporary nurses so that they can maintain services.
Since March, nurses have been working to negotiate higher wages. They want new contracts based on all that they have to deal with. However, hospital executives have been less than willing to consider the demands as they’re identified as being too expensive.
Are the nurses being unreasonable? They want to see increases of more than 30% to their salaries by the end of the three-year contract. Considering that most nurses were likely severely underpaid to begin with, it doesn’t sound too unreasonable.
Most nurses have four year and even six year degrees. When you compare what they earn to what the doctors that they assist earn, there is a considerable pay difference – and nurses simply want to be paid what they are worth.
Nurses have felt like they had no choice but to strike. Between the pay and the fact that hospitals are refusing to hire more staff means that they are being run ragged. Patients end up having to wait longer in the waiting rooms as opposed to receiving the care they need. And when patients are finally seen, many are frustrated – and that frustration is taken out on none other than the nurses.
The Minnesota Nurses Association claims that unless they see that benefits are substantially improved, nurses will continue to walk – and that will leave many hospitals vulnerable. Mary Turner is the union president. She spoke to CBS News to say, “They need to see it as the crisis that it is. We’ve said over and over that this isn’t something we do lightly, but we’re not going to just sit back and do nothing. We can’t.”
Paul Omodt is a spokesman for several of the hospitals in the Minneapolis area. He explained, “It just isn’t a realistic number” when referring to the requested salary increases.
It appears that politicians are siding with the nurses. Representative Jamie Long tweeted that the nurses “deserve to be safe and respected on the job!” Meanwhile, there is more support pouring in as the Minnesota Nurses handle on Twitter continues to share photos of the picket lines, complete with the hashtag #patientsbeforeprofits.
Even before the strike took place, hospitals had planned – and there were bus loads of traveling nurses showing up.
It seems that if there are people willing to work through the strike, the hospitals feel protected.
Meanwhile, when a one-day strike happened in 2010, the hospitals hired replacement nurses.
The reality is that nurses nationwide are feeling burnt out. As the nurses say, it isn’t that there’s a nursing shortage like hospital executives want everyone to believe. It’s that there’s a shortage of nurses willing to work under grueling conditions.
The outcome? We’re waiting.