COLUMBUS – The nearly 4,000 nurses with The Ohio State University Nurses Organization, a bargaining unit of the Ohio Nurses Association, ratified a landmark contract with The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center on July 11, 2019. The three-year agreement includes language for safe nurse staffing – a turning point for enhanced patient safety at the medical center – and competitive wage increases to retain good nurses at the bedside.
Safe Nurse Staffing
Research proves nurses provide optimal patient care when safely staffed. Overextending nurses with too many patients or by forcing them to work overtime means patients are not receiving the attention and focus needed for the quality care they deserve. The nurses pushed for contract language that enforces evidence-backed safe nurse staffing practices, including safe nurse-to-patient ratios and a phase out of mandatory overtime – a dangerous practice of forcing nurses to work extended shifts and a practice the ONA is working to eliminate state-wide with House Bill 144. Because patient care suffers when nurses are forced to work exhausted, this agreement will empower nurses to refuse additional hours if fatigued.
Though the Medical Center quotes healthy profits, OSUNO nurses are paid less on average than 90% of other nurses in Central Ohio according to the Economic Research Institute. The nurses pushed for competitive wage increases, resulting in an astounding 15-18% increase for most nurses over the life of the contract. Compensation that is not competitive increases turnover, interrupts the care continuum and forces the hospital to constantly spend money on training and orientation instead of direct patient care. This increase will only aid in the Medical Center’s efforts to recruit and retain the best Central Ohio nurses at the bedside.
“Our nurses pushed the Medical Center to join us in raising the bar for our patients, and through months of collective action among our members, we were able to secure a monumental contract that benefits everyone: our nurses, our patients and the Medical Center,” said Rick Lucas, OSUNO president. “Fortunately, the Medical Center listened to our collective voice and came to the table ready to collaborate. It is rare to find a healthcare system that values nurses’ patient advocacy, and we commend the Medical Center for joining us in raising the bar for patients. What our nurses have accomplished is remarkable, and this agreement will become the standard for which all others will be measured,” Lucas continued.
The landmark agreement is already encouraging OSUNO nurses to stay at the bedside – a wide-spread problem in the profession because bedside nurses are fed up with the stress of poor staffing, work-life balance and inadequate pay compared to other facets of the profession.
“I was contemplating leaving because of my frustrations with being forced to work extra hours beyond my 12-hour shift and promises of better pay with other positions. I am a single mother and have to do what is best for my daughter and me. Now, under the guarantees of this contract, I feel confident that I can continue to do what I truly love: directly caring for patients at the bedside,” stated Baylee Stiers, a five-year neonatal intensive care unit nurse at the Medical Center.
The parties began negotiations on April 2, 2019, with the current agreement expiring June 30, 2019.
About ONA: Formed in 1904, the Ohio Nurses Association is a powerful network of registered nurses who are committed to advancing nursing through education, political action and workplace advocacy. ONA is the leading voice of the approximately 190,000 professional registered nurses in Ohio. To become a member of the Ohio Nurses Association, visit www.ohnurses.org.