CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) — Nurses who work at the Ralph H Johnson VA Medical Center spoke out on Veteran’s Day about issues with staffing and pay that they say are negatively impacting patient care.
“We honestly feel like we are just nothing,” said one nurse who wanted to remain anonymous. “We have been working mandatory overtime for a year and a half. We’re tired. We’re hemorrhaging nurses.”
The burnout from being short-staffed has caused nurses to grow weary and upset. Their current wages, which some say are too low, are another issue. The nurses also say that the hospital is not doing enough to hire more nurses.
“It gets to a point where you look up to your leadership and you say ‘Help!’ We are holding on, but we need help and we need it now,” said another anonymous nurse.
The demands from nurses are for the hospital to expedite the registered nurse hiring process, give the nurses raises and monitor the ratios of nurses to patients for better care.
But, patience is growing thin for most of the staff.
“We can’t keep hearing ‘It’s coming. We’re waiting on this. We’re still waiting on this. We don’t know, We don’t know,’ If we gave you that response you’d tell us to hit the door. You want a deadline. This is the federal government. Set deadlines. Set expectations for these processes to be put in place,” said the second nurse.
A protest was planned by the nurses for Veteran’s Day at the hospital where they would display their displeasure, but it was canceled due to inclement weather. There is no makeup date at this time.
“We’re trying to bring awareness to this because we felt like this was the last thing our leadership could have implemented that might’ve helped because nothing is happening,” said the first nurse.
The Charleston VAMC is responding to the complaints.
“We are vigorously pursuing multiple actions necessary to recruit and retain our nursing workforce,” said Wayne Capps of the Public Affairs Office at the hospital. “Nursing turnover rates at the Charleston VA have ranged from 5.9% to 12.9% over the past two years, less than half the national average of 27.1%.”
The hospital said that they meet all of the quality care and patient safety standards. When it comes to wages, Capps said that registered nurses are paid more at that hospital than others in Charleston.
“The Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System nurses are paid 28% more than their peers on average locally. We also offer benefits such as health care, student loan repayment, bonuses and comparative paid time off,” said Capps.