The fact that we can’t find new full-time, vaccinated workers to work at our state hospitals tells you how little the state values healthcare workers. We have been calling attention to staffing issues long before the pandemic even started. For years, nurses and health professionals have been expected to do more with less – less help, less equipment and less supplies. The end result is an extremely high level of stress, burnout and staff resignation, along with fewer and fewer people choosing healthcare as a viable career choice. Our nurses have been frustrated with the State administration to the point where many have been searching for other jobs. We even took a “no-confidence” vote in the state administration in April.
The fact that this administration is now hiring staffing firms and offering traveling nurses hourly wages four times what full-time nurses are making is a slap in the face to the hard-working nurses who have given so much to this hospital and the patients we care for, especially over the last two years.
This is a wake up call, not just to Eleanor Slater Hospital management but to management of all hospitals in Rhode Island. It’s time to create proper training, recruitment and retention programs that make workers want to continue in this profession. In short, the staffing issues will not be solved until hospital management makes a sustained commitment to investing in workers and putting quality patient care at the center of their healthcare universe.
Cynthia Lussier, R.N., is president of the United Nurses and Allied Professionals Local 5019, which represents nurses at the State-run Eleanor Slater Hospital Zambarano Unit and the Rhode Island Veterans Home.