News & Events

The Truth About Strike Replacement Nurses


Brigham and Women’s Hospital Hiring Mercenary Nurses Known to Endanger Patient Safety to Take Place of 3,300 Highly Specialized Brigham Nurses Fighting for Their Patients and Profession

CANTON, Mass. – During a planned one-day strike June 27 by 3,300 Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) nurses, BWH and Partners HealthCare plan to bring in mercenary replacement nurses who do not know the hospital, are not highly specialized like the Brigham nurses, and who the Massachusetts Nurses Association believes will endanger patient care.

“Brigham nurses are irreplaceable,” said Kelly Morgan, a labor and delivery nurse and vice chair of the MNA BWH bargaining unit. “We walk the halls of this hospital every day. We know and have worked with the physicians at the hospital and cared for their patients for years. Without the Brigham 3,300 nurses, the hospital is inoperable.”

History, academic studies and unionized registered nurses can all testify to the fact that mercenary replacement nurses cannot make up for the temporary loss of nurses who are specialized in their fields and knowledgeable of their patients and the hospital systems.

A 2010 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded, “Hiring replacement workers apparently does not help: hospitals that hired replacement workers performed no better during strikes than those that did not hire substitute employees. In each case, patients with conditions that required intensive nursing were more likely to fare worse in the presence of nurses' strikes.”

During the 2000 strike by MNA nurses at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, three replacement nurses were fired after separate incidents in which they left a patient alone after surgery and also gave the wrong baby to a nursing mother, according to news reports by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and WCVB Channel 5. Another patient was given a nearly fatal overdose of morphine because a replacement misunderstood a doctor’s order, according to Channel 5.

See more about these patient safety problems in a video here and also read more here.

More than 4,000 nurses at Minneapolis-based Allina Health went on strike on June 19, this past Sunday. Allina Health brought in 1,400 replacement nurses to get through the week. However, the Minnesota Nurses Association reported problems at Abbott Northwesternn, such as replacements showing up to work in intensive care with their licenses to practice in the state still pending, according to the Star Tribune.

BWH/Partners has said it plans to hire 700 temporary nurses to provide patient care during a potential strike. The hospital does not tell the public how unrealistic it is that these 700 replacement nurses could make up for the temporary loss of the 3,300 Brigham nurses. The hospital has also said publicly that if there is a strike, they anticipate it will last five days. That is misleading. Brigham nurses are voting to authorize a one-day strike. They plan to walkout and not work for one 24-hour period starting at 7 a.m. on June 27 in protest of the hospital and Partners failing to provide a fair contract settlement offer. The hospital has responded by threatening to lock out nurses for four days following the potential strike day.

Brigham nurses are appalled that the hospital is choosing to spend millions of dollars to lock out its nurses to avoid making necessary improvements in care.  The nurses are also concerned about the quality and safety of care provided by these replacement nurses, given that BWH is a level-one trauma center. 

“It can take several months to orientate even an experienced nurse to provide quality care under normal conditions," said Trish Powers, RN OR staff nurse and chair of the MNA BWH bargaining unit. “How can they possibly expect to safely operate this hospital with nurses, drawn from all parts of the country, who have no experience with our facility, our systems, or physicians and patient population?  There is no way this hospital can function safely under those conditions. It is irresponsible. Instead of issuing ultimatums and spending millions to ignore us, it's time they listened to us and offered a fair settlement that values safe patient care over corporate profits.”

For more details about negotiations and outstanding nurse issues see this news release and also this release.