Bundled against chilly 60-degree temperatures, nurses dressed in scrubs and armed with glow sticks gathered Tuesday evening in front of MountainView Hospital to hold a candlelight vigil over hospital staffing concerns.
Organized in part by Nevada’s section of the National Nurses Organizing Committee, the vigil was part of an effort to encourage hospital officials to take action on what some nurses believe are conditions not conducive to the best patient recovery.
Sharon Quantz has been a nurse for 41 years and has worked at MountainView Hospital for the past seven of them. “It’s been understaffed intermittently, but we’ve really been fighting for it for about two years,” she said.
Quantz said that nurses at the hospital have been subjected to high patient-to-staff ratios — being assigned six to eight patients at a time to care for, which National Nurses United, a union of more than 185,000 members nationwide, thinks is too much.
“They see themselves as patient advocates and will come out to do whatever it takes to protect them,” said Lisa Morowitz, a National Nurses United spokeswoman.
The group of nurses spoke of their struggles with the hospital and sang jingles reworded to accommodate their profession. Passing cars honked, though the group didn’t display signs showing why they were there.
Quantz said the problem is that the people making the rules aren’t nurses themselves. “They staff by numbers, not by patient status,” she said.
They’re spread very thin during their shifts, several nurses at the vigil agreed. The union fought for a better staffing contract in 2009 and did come to an agreement with the hospital, but there has been trouble with follow-through, Morowitz said.
Former MountainView Hospital nurse Liz Bickle expressed disappointment in the bigger picture of things. In nursing school, she said, the career was painted as a profession that shouldn’t require the protection of a union. After graduation, she realized that was an ideal, not reality.
Hospital officials understand that it’s a complicated issue and responded quickly to the nurses’ concerns.
“We are constantly evaluating our staffing levels to make sure that our patients get the best possible care based on their individual needs,” Jennifer McDonnell, director of marketing and communications, said Tuesday.
“MountainView has a proud history of quality care and that legacy continues today,” she said.
That legacy is being recognized nationally by The Joint Commission, an accreditor of health care organizations in America. MountainView Hospital announced that it was distinguished as a top performer, scoring 95 percent or above on the award’s criteria.