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Newton-Wellesley Hospital Nurses Deliver Petition of No Confidence in Chief Nursing Officer for Staffing Cuts That Endanger Safe Patient Care

NEWTON, Mass. – In response to staffing cuts that have jeopardized safe patient care in the emergency department and medical surgical units, the registered nurses of Newton-Wellesley Hospital (NWH) delivered to the hospital president on Tuesday a petition of no confidence in Chief Nursing Office Karen Conley signed by more than 80 percent of staff nurses.

NWH nurses, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), have vigorously objected to reductions in staffing that have left patients with fewer nurses to care for them. Conley has refused to address nurses’ concerns, despite numerous meetings with front-line RNs and a multi-part effort by nurses requesting that Conley, the rest of hospital leadership and corporate owner Partners HealthCare ensure safe patient care.

“We have lost confidence in our nursing leadership. The administration is ruining what was once a great community hospital,” said Laurie Andersen, co-chair of the MNA Local Bargaining Unit and a nurse in the emergency department at the hospital. “Newton-Wellesley Hospital and its patients are suffering. Nurses have seen the quality of care diminish over the last few years. The emergency department alone has lost more than 15 experienced nurses, seriously impacting our ability to provide safe and effective patient care.”

For a copy of the letter delivered with the petition to NWH President Dr. Michael Jaff, contact Joe Markman at

  • In addition to the 15 ED nurses who left on their own, most of whom were not replaced, NWH has cut ED staffing three times in less than two years, even though patient volume and acuity have been steady or rising:
  • In January 2015, one nurse from the regular ED staffing was cut 24 hours per day, seven days a week for a total of 168 hours per week. In September 2016, another 80 hours per week were eliminated from front-line nurse staffing. This is a total of 248 hours a week or 36 hours a day of fewer nurses at the bedside in the ED.
  • In addition, the hospital eliminated a nurse from the regular ED staffing pattern from 3 a.m. to 11 a.m. seven days a week and also from 3 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

This fall, Conley and her team increased the number of patients medical-surgical nurses regularly care for at one time, from four patients to five patients. On night shifts, nurses are now regularly caring for seven patients. These changes have been made despite front-line nurses’ vocal concerns and despite numerous academic studies that show additional patient assignments for nurses means a higher risk of harm for patients.

Nurses have become increasingly concerned about patient safety at the hospital over the last few years. During two sets of contract negotiations in 2015 and 2016, NWH nurses picketed outside the hospital and held overwhelming strike authorization votes over patient safety issues. Since reaching an agreement with the hospital this spring, averting a one-day strike, nurses have continued to voice concerns.

This fall, nurses waged a campaign for safe patient care following the staffing cuts. They met repeatedly with management to voice their concerns and have held meetings among themselves to discuss ongoing safety issues. Nurses placed two advertisements in local newspapers highlighting staffing cuts and calling on hospital leadership to make improvements. They also sent a letter to NWH President Dr. Michael Jaff and the hospital’s board of trustees. Every request by nurses to address the situation has been rebuffed.

“We want to save our hospital,” said Nancy Anderson, a longtime RN at NWH and co-chair of the MNA Local Bargaining Unit. “For that to happen, we need to see dramatic change from management. We, the nurses, have a simple goal: We want to provide safe, quality care to our patients in a safe environment.”

The text of the petition follows:

The MNA bargaining unit nurses of Partners HealthCare/Newton-Wellesley Hospital are signing a petition of no confidence in Partners/NWH Chief Nursing Officer Karen Conley.

We, the RNs at NWH, believe that under the direction of Karen Conley, our hospital has suffered unwarranted cuts to ED staffing and increased patient assignments for charge nurses on the med/surg floors, which has resulted in a deterioration in the quality and safety of patient care. 

In addition, we feel that Karen Conley has ushered in a new culture at Newton-Wellesley Hospital that does not respect or respond to the concerns of front-line nurses, or ensure the high-quality care our patients expect and deserve.

We, the undersigned nurses, affirm that we have no confidence in Karen Conley’s ability to lead the hospital.