Strike signs are displayed during a press confrence for the Providence nurses who gave a 10-day strike notice two days ago at the Everett Labor Temple in Everett, Washington on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Strike signs are displayed during a press confrence for the Providence nurses who gave a 10-day strike notice two days ago at the Everett Labor Temple in Everett, Washington on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

About 1,300 Providence nurses are walking out. Here’s what to know.

Nurses and their families plan to picket the Evertt hospital’s two campuses from Tuesday to Sunday.

EVERETT — As of 6 a.m. Tuesday, nurses at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett are set to walk out. It’s the first strike at the hospital since 1999.

The work stoppage comes after more than six months of talks. About 1,300 nurses and their supporters plan to picket both Everett campuses, 1700 13th St. and 900 Pacific Ave. They plan to picket for 24 hours each day, with rotating shifts. Nurses are also planning a candlelight vigil for 6 p.m. Thursday at Drew Nielson Neighborhood Park, across the street from the hospital at 13th Street and Colby Avenue.

Many supporters are expected to join the picket line, nurse Kelli Johnson said.

“I imagine it will be a very active strike,” she said Monday.

In anticipation of the strike, nurses used a light to project a countdown onto the side of the hospital building after dark. Both sides of the dispute have paid for full-page ads in Tuesday’s print edition of the Herald, with nurses touting their public support and Providence accusing nurses of putting “pickets before patients.”

Nurses plan to strike until Sunday unless Providence agrees to negotiate further over staffing issues. After the strike, nurses will return to work and contract negotiations will continue, Johnson said.

How will the strike affect patient care?

Providence has partnered with a staffing agency to employ replacement nurses during the strike. The hospital will have enough nurses to provide “uninterrupted care” to patients, spokesperson Erika Hermanson said last week. Management and staff from other Providence locations are also expected to help with daily operations.

“I feel confident with the staffing plan that we have,” Chief Nursing Officer Michelle Lundstrom said Monday. “It will be a seamless transition.”

Leadership has prepared for a strike for months, regional Chief Executive Officer Kristy Carrington said . She declined to say how many replacement nurses the hospital will have during the strike or how much they will be paid.

Carrington said she can’t provide specifics since workload at the hospital fluctuates, but leadership will assess patient needs daily.

“There’s not a hard and fast number at this point in time,” she said Monday. “Where we stand right now, we have no need to scale back on any services.”

Travel nurses with Aya Healthcare who have current work contracts with Providence are being offered a base rate of $61.53 an hour to work during the strike, according to an email obtained by the Herald.

Why are nurses striking?

Union nurses say they are striking because Providence won’t consider “safe staffing” terms in a new contract. The hospital lost over 600 nurses since 2019, and while Providence has rehired some nurses, most units remain understaffed.

For more than a year, nurses have described a hospital in trouble with overworked employees and fears for patient safety. Initially, nurses asked Providence to limit how many patients each nurse could take on. Providence rejected set nurse-to-patient ratios in favor of a more flexible staffing model that shifts more work to nurse aides, Lundstrom said last month.

Nurses have also asked for extra pay during understaffed shifts to encourage Providence to hire more nurses.

Providence has rejected that ask, but increased its offer for overall wage increases to 21.5% by the last meeting with the nurses’ union on Nov. 3. Nurses gave their 10-day strike notice after the meeting.

Nurse Trevor Gjendem said the strike will be a “cathartic emotional release” for nurses who feel Providence has dismissed their concerns. Nurses don’t expect the hospital to budge on staffing language in the contract, he said, but hope visibility from the strike will encourage the public to get involved.

What is Providence’s response?

Providence is “disappointed” nurses have decided to strike, Carrington said, in part because it will delay contract negotiations.

“People are burned out, there’s no doubt about that,” she said.

Leadership has bargained with nurses in good faith, said Chief Nursing Officer Michelle Lundstrom . Providence is offering market competitive wage increases and more flexible work schedules, among other incentives.

“The longer we drag this out, the longer the amount of time without them getting an appropriate raise,” Lundstrom said.

Leadership and nurses want the same thing, Lundstrom said, but they don’t agree on the path forward.

“On the other side of the strike, we will welcome them back,” she said. “We won’t love them any less.”

Sydney Jackson: 425-339-3430; sydney.jackson@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @_sydneyajackson.

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