Nurses at Twin Cities hospitals make safety a key part of contract talks

May 16, 2019 09:01 AM

Nurses at Twin Cities hospitals are in the midst of negotiating new labor contracts.

And action to provide protection when it comes to attacks by patients is an issue that is dominating the conversation.

Both sides in this round of negotiations say they are far from coming to an agreement.

The nursing union wants the new contract to include training on everything from how to de-escalate situations to self-defense. Tuesday is the last day of negotiations for Fairview.

The current contract for nurses ends May 31.

The union is hoping to either hammer out a deal or set new dates for negotiations. If that doesn't happen, it could lead to picketing. 

Representatives of the hospitals say they're committed to working with all staff to ensure a safe working environment. But representatives from the union say not enough has been done to ensure safety for nurses.

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Jordan Foerster, a nurse at Fairview Riverside, has experienced such violence first-hand. She had a patient kick her in the stomach while she was pregnant - an attack she still replays in her mind.

"I kind of reached over her and she started kicking me," she recalls. "And she ended up kicking me in my abdomen and she just started laughing."

Ericka Helling works as a nurse at Fairview Southdale in the intensive care unit. She said addressing workplace violence is a key area for nurses during this round of negotiations.

"They're withdrawing from drugs," she said. "Whatever they're doing. But they strike nurses, they hit nurses, they punch nurses. They verbally abuse them, and we need to know how to manage that."

Mandy Richards, the Chief Nursing Officer at Allina Health, issued a statement saying safety is a top priority.

"We are fiercely committed to working with all hospital staff – our nurses, doctors, security and safety personnel and other support staff – on safety and violence prevention efforts," the statement read.

"We all share the same objective of making our hospitals safer, exceptional places to work and receive care.  However, safety and violence circumstances can vary substantially. They demand sometimes daily flexibility and adjustment to work on what's best for our care teams and the patients we serve – flexibility that can be very difficult to provide for in a contract." 

Laura Reed, the Chief Nursing Executive and Chief Operating Officer for Fairview Health Services, echoed those sentiments in a statement of her own.

"Safety is extremely important for all of our clinical team," it read.

"While we've worked collaboratively with nurses and invested in new workplace safety initiatives, including prevention, training, and improving our physical environment, we know there is more work to do. We're committed to continuing to work together on this important issue. Our focus in negotiations is agreeing on a contract that balances the needs of our nurses, patients, families and the communities we serve."

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Todd Wilson

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