Nurses Unions in Washington Back Safe-Staffing Legislation


Dangerous assignments are being reported at record rates by hospital workers at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver.

The number of reports made to the Washington State Nurses Association, which represents nurses at PeaceHealth Southwest, rose from 32 in 2019 to 242 in 2020 and 302 in 2021, according to Jayson Dick, the union’s director of labor advocacy. Fifty reports have already been filed in 2022.

Staffing shortages are leading to more dangerous assignments for nurses, Dick said, and more reports to the union. He did not comment on specific complaints because the reports are confidential.

“This is a very real situation,” Dick said. “Nurses don’t submit these lightly. These are the assignments that were so bad that nurses felt compelled to file them after a long, grueling shift. These are exactly the kinds of conditions that are driving nurses away from the field.”

But Clark County isn’t alone: Critical staffing shortages are plaguing hospitals statewide, leading to safety concerns and high levels of burnout among nurses.

There is a shortage of some 6,000 registered nurses across the state, according to a survey conducted by the Washington State Hospital Association in November.

Hospital workers represented by Washington’s three largest health care unions — UFCW 21, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW and the Washington State Nurses Association — filed 8,600 workplace safety complaints in 2021, a record number, according to the three unions. For comparison, 2,685 complaints were filed in 2019.

The complaints from 2021 largely reference a lack of staff safety due to staffing shortages, equipment shortages and patient concerns, according to a statement from the Washington State Nurses Association.