Tuscaloosa VA nurses protest staffing and working conditions
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - Nurses gathered outside the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center in protest of staffing and working conditions on Wednesday.
Registered nurses and nurse practitioners at the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center say safety and severe RN understaffing are their primary concerns. They also claimed there is a hostile work environment that has driven a large number of staff to leave TVAMC according to the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurse United (NNOC/NNU), the union representing the VA nurses.
Akeba Vester, RN and NNU director at TVAMC said in a statement, “I am a veteran, serve in the Reserves and have worked at this VA for over 14 years. Nurses are exhausted and are leaving in record numbers because of the poor working conditions. We warned the leadership for over a year now that if they do not improve the conditions under which we deliver patient care, they can expect an exodus that will be damaging to both veteran patients and staff who remain. Instead of listening, they ignored us and forced many nurses to work unsafe 16-hour shifts and are detailing nurses without adequate orientation and training to areas of the hospital they have never worked before. Nurses are not willing to be abused, risk their patients’ safety, and risk their own nursing license by being put into unsafe situations. That is why nurses are leaving.”
Pamela King, RN for over 18 years at TVAMC added , “There is no nursing shortage, there is only a shortage of nurses who are willing to put up with poor working conditions and disrespect.”
“We made numerous efforts to get the attention of VISN 7 (VA Southeast Network) leadership to intervene and meet with us but have been completely ignored by them. Unless the leadership of the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center and VISN 7 make drastic changes and start really listening to us, no matter how many new nurses they bring on, nurses will continue leaving and our nation’s veterans are paying the ultimate price,” continued King. An overwhelming percentage of RNs and NPs have also signed a petition stating their concerns to management.
The VA medical Center public information officer released this statement is response to Wednesday’s planned protest at the hospital.
“Patient Safety is our highest priority at the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center and concerns about patient safety are something that we do not take lightly. We have multiple forums and avenues of reporting concerns for patient safety and our labor partners are also invited to meet with the Associate Director for Nursing and Patient Care Services and the Medical Center Director on a frequent basis. Due to the nursing shortage, Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center is detailing nurses from our outpatient areas to our inpatient units to ensure appropriate coverage is available to provide safe, quality care. Leadership continues to take action on all issues that arise through the proper channels. We take a collaborative approach to problem-solving and welcome the NNU to be a part of the solution so that we may continue providing safe and reliable care to the Veterans we serve”
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