By Suzanne Gordon and Steve Early in Beyond Chron
The national wave of worker unrest over hospital conditions that create job stress, burn-out, and short staffing reached the corner of Clement and 42ndStreets in the outer Richmond last Wednesday, Oct. 18.
Nearly 100 RNs and other staffers from the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC) spent their breaks or lunch hour on an informational picket-line, organized by Local 1 of the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), which represents 1,100 employees at the facility. Dressed in blue scrubs, and accompanied by a boom box blasting golden oldies like “We Are Family,” the RNs waved signs, chanted slogans, urged passing drivers to honk their horns in solidarity, which many did, and perfected their picket-line call-and-response skills (“When nurses are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”)
They are protesting a cost-cutting measure, announced by one of 170 medical centers run by Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which serves nine million patients nationwide. SFVAMC executives want to cancel flexible work schedules for bedside nurses at a time when the VA is struggling to fill RN vacancies around the country.
A recent report by the agency’s own Inspector General found “severe shortages” of nurses in more than 90% of VA hospitals.NFFE members—who picketed in T-shirts with the slogan “Serving Those Who Served” on the back– say this management move will impede RN recruitment and retention locally and adversely affect the quality of patient care. According to one report, 87 % of healthcare recruiters surveyed are having more difficulty hiring nurses, with two-thirds reporting major difficulties. This has created an intense, post-pandemic, competition for nursing staff. The flexible work schedule known as “72/80,” which allows nurses to work for 72 hours while being paid for 80, has become a key tool for keeping experienced RNs on the job and attracting new ones.
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