UW Health nurses use #whyuwnursesneedaunion to shed light on understaffing

MADISON, Wis. — Dozens of UW Health nurses took to Facebook this week to share stories about what it’s like to work at the hospital and make a case for the return of a union using the #whyuwnursesneedaunion.

UW Health Nurse Shari Signer said they are experiencing a severe lack of staffing, one that predates the pandemic but was made worse by it.

Signer, a UW employee of 18 years, also said they’re in crisis mode and it’s taking a toll on patient care.

“We are anywhere between 20-45 nurses short every single shift,” she said. “We have 6 hour waits in our emergency room we have–at any point in time we can have 20-50 people in the hallway in the emergency room.”

ER Nurse Kaci Waters said since losing their Union in 2014 UW hospital hasn’t been the same.

“Cost of healthcare has gone up exponentially for us, it costs almost thousands of dollars to park in the parking lot,” said Waters. “Our raises don’t match cost of living increases.”

They said bringing back their union and the benefits that were once protected by it would help with recruitment and retention, something they said has taken a major dive since 2014.

RELATED: Madison Common Council backs UW Health nurses in unionization efforts

Earlier this month nurse Mary Jorgenson said she reached out to the UW Hospitals and Clinics Authority board to be put on their meeting’s agenda but was declined.

“We had more patients than what we were able to take and one of our administrative heads came down and actually wished us good luck and walked away,” said Signer.

In a statement to News 3 UW Health Representatives said nurses were instead offered to submit written information  to the board and referenced a statement from the UWCHA board issued in February of 2020.

“The Board agrees with management that there is opportunity for improvement in two-way communication between UWHCA employees and management, including Shared Governance for nurses,” it reads.

Signer said that approach hasn’t worked, asking for the board to do more.

“They keep listening and we keep saying and there’s never an action, there’s never follow through,” said Signer. “They say ‘go to direct supervisors’ but our direct supervisor’s hands are tied as well.”

Jorgensen said individual UWCHA board members have been willing to sit down with them so they’re still hoping to build better relationships across the board.

They also said the majority of UW’s nursing staff have signed a petition in support of unions.