Nurses Declare an Emergency at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center



December 18, 2020


Molly Homan, Director of Communications

Ohio Nurses Association

614-746-9914 |



Nurses Declare an Emergency

at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Concerns have fallen on deaf ears at the Medical Center


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Nurse staffing has hit a critical point at the OSU Wexner Medical Center, with the Ohio State University Nurses Organization (OSUNO) declaring it an emergency situation. The nurses’ unit, consisting of over 4,100 Ohio Nurses Association-represented nurses, have attempted on multiple occasions since April to problem-solve with the Medical Center, only for the Medical Center to regularly ignore the nurses. The nurses feel it is their professional responsibility to sound the alarm any time safe staffing is compromised, with this situation reaching an unprecedented level of concern.

Specifically, OSUNO wants the Medical Center to work with nurses to take the following steps immediately:

  • Reduce elective surgeries in order to safely manage hospital capacity and preserve the health workforce. Reducing elective surgeries would lead to redeploying nurses into other critical roles within the hospital.
  • Improve pandemic pay programs to ensure no healthcare worker is penalized. We were thankful when the hospital implemented pay preservation and pandemic leave programs at the beginning of the pandemic, but those programs have not been updated to reflect the longevity of this crisis.
  • Implement a fair COVID incentive program to ensure there are enough nurses and healthcare workers to provide the level of care patients need.
  • Meaningfully listen to frontline healthcare workers so they may have the resources to provide safe, quality patient care.

While administrators keep adding new patient beds in every nook and cranny, and increasing unit acuity – meaning sicker and sicker patients that require more care – Wexner Medical Center isn’t doing anything different to try and provide additional nurses and other frontline healthcare workers.  Nurses are being spread thinner and thinner, which means each patient is getting less and less attention. Many nurses feel that under these conditions they cannot meet their professional obligation to provide safe patient care.

“Let me tell you, working short and being overwhelmed is awful, but there is nothing worse than telling a patient or their family that you are being forced to work short staffed or stay past the point of exhaustion. There is nothing worse than seeing even the slightest doubt on their faces as you tirelessly take care of their critical needs. There’s nothing worse than waking up in a panic worried you forgot a critical detail or made a mistake that could hurt a patient. There is nothing worse than feeling like the care you are providing is unsafe and you could hurt someone or even cause their death. Nurses are committed to patient safety, are the last line of defense, and are the definitive patient advocate. We’re not OK with what seems like playing Russian Roulette with our patients’ lives!” – Rick Lucas BSN RN OCN VA-BC CCRN, OSUNO President

Nurses are facing new challenges in working the kind of hours that are necessary to make sure there are enough staff to care for patients.  Virtual schooling and lack of available childcare make it harder for parents.  Nurses at high risk or with families at high risk struggle with adding additional exposure at work – especially because OSU will not guarantee a nurse who is exposed to COVID at work won’t lose pay when quarantined or sick with COVID.

“We are tired. And mentally, we aren’t ok. But we sit with your families and hold their hands while they die alone and we do everything we can up to that point to keep them alive.  Somehow this all has to stop.” – Megan Leffler, RN

OSU tells the public that nurses are heroes.  If nurses are the heroes, then the Medical Center should have them at the table to make heroic decisions.



About OSUNO: The Ohio State University Nurses Organization is a local unit of the Ohio Nurses Association union, representing over 4,000 registered nurses at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.