Updated August 10, 2021 - 5:23 pm
Labor and delivery nurses at MountainView Hospital spoke out Tuesday about what they described as unsafe conditions for pregnant patients and their unborn children due to inadequate numbers of nursing staff.
When there are high volumes of patients, “There’s not enough staff to safely, appropriately provide the best care that we can,” said Nicole Taylor, a nurse in the hospital’s labor and delivery unit and chief nurse representative for National Nurses Organizing Committee-Nevada/National Nurses United.
A nurse assigned to one patient is actually taking care of two — the mother-to-be in labor and her child. “One of them you can’t see,” Taylor said, “and that can be scary at times.”
There have been times when a pregnant woman in the intensive care unit with COVID-19 has been without fetal monitoring for “an hour or two” before a nurse could leave her patients in the delivery unit to adjust the monitor, Taylor said. The potentially dangerous situations resulted in no harm that she knew of to the women or their babies.
Flanked by half a dozen other nurses from the unit, Taylor spoke to members of the news media from a parking lot across the street from the hospital during an event organized by the union, which represents nearly 950 nurses at the hospital. The union and the hospital are currently in contract negotiations.
Union activity such as Tuesday’s are “customary and expected, especially during the negotiations process,” MountainView representative Jennifer McDonnell said in an email.
A Sunrise Health System hospital owned by HCA, MountainView has a Level III newborn intensive care unit for critically ill newborns and premature infants.
“Patient care is of the utmost importance and we are always looking ahead to make sure our staffing is at appropriate levels,” said McDonnell, the hospital’s director of public relations and communications. “… Unfortunately, the national nurse staffing shortage is a difficult challenge for hospitals throughout the U.S. and is at critical levels for certain parts of the country. We are doing everything in our power to retain and recruit new nurses to our community,” including offering shift bonuses and programs for new nursing school graduates.
Taylor said that maternity unit nurses are often spread thin among more patients than recommended, Taylor said, a problem that has only intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But she said, “It is my belief that there’s not a shortage of nurses. There’s a shortage of people who are willing to work in unsafe conditions.”
In an interview prior to Tuesday’s event, Taylor said, “If you create an environment where nurses feel safe, the nurses will come.’
Kimberly Dalrymple, a labor and delivery nurse who has worked at MountainView for more than a decade, said that when she began “our staffing was appropriate. Our patients got the absolute best care in the valley.”
However, a growing staffing crunch has gotten worse over the past year, she said, with pleas going out almost daily for nurses to come in on a day off.
Taylor said that she hopes that the union and hospital management can “come together at the table to find solutions.”
McDonnell said, “Despite the labor union’s rhetoric, we have made substantial progress in recent negotiation sessions and look forward to concluding negotiations in the near future.”