News & Events

St. Vincent nurses organize flash mob for safe staffing

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
February/March 2011 Edition

The nurses of St. Vincent Hospital, who are locked in a protracted dispute with hospital administration over their call for a new union contract that would specify RN-to-patient ratios on every patient care unit, recently employed a new tactic — a “flash mob.”

This flash mob took place in the hospital’s shopping mall-like atrium where more than 35 nurses held up letters and a banner with the message “Safe Staffing Now.”

Visitors, patients, and staff who were in the atrium immediately took out cell phones and began taking pictures of the nurses, and by the time perturbed managers arrived on the scene, the well choreographed mob of nurses dispersed.

The event has created a buzz within the hospital among the nursing staff, as more and more nurses are becoming energized to take collective action to convince management of how important this issue is for the quality and safety of patient care at the facility.

“We have been telling management for months that we cannot provide the care our patients deserve under the current conditions,” said Marlena Pellegrino, RN, a nurse on a busy medical surgical floor at the hospital and chair of the MNA local bargaining unit at St. Vincent Hospital. “Management needs to understand that this issue is not going away, and we intend to do whatever it takes to communicate our concerns until we get what we need to protect our patients.”

In 2009, the Department of Public Health released a report showing that St. Vincent Hospital had more serious medical errors and patient care mistakes than any hospital in the state. Last year nurses filed more than 800 official reports of unsafe conditions at the facility (an average of more than two a day).

Vanguard, the for-profit owner of the hospital, is a multi-billion dollar corporation that has posted nearly $50 million in profits at St. Vincent Hospital over the past two years. Despite this, they are cutting back on patient care resources and applying an assembly line mentality to the delivery of patient care, while providing their caregivers with below market wages and benefits. This combination is endangering patients, and limiting our ability to recruit and retain registered nurses.

“It’s time for Vanguard to put their concern for patients ahead of their desire for profits,” said Pellegrino. “And for that to happen they need to heed the message we have been sending – we need safe staffing, and we need it now.”