EVERETT, Wash. - Nurses in the North Sound are sounding the alarm with elected leaders, warning too many in their field are getting burned out and open positions are not being filled quickly enough to make up for it.
Everett City Council got an earful this week from the nursing staff at Providence who told them the shortage is starting to impact patient care.
"It's frustrating. I go home frustrated and I want to do a better job," said registered nurse Julie Bynum.
Bynum has spent nearly 30 years caring for surgical patients. She works at Providence in Everett and she says a staffing shortage is becoming a crisis.
"Clearly, you don’t want to be in the hospital with COVID," she said. "Especially when we don’t have the staff."
The shortage forced a temporary pause in new admissions for Providence’s inpatient pediatric unit, which is getting help from Seattle Children’s for now.
"I’m deeply concerned about what’s happening here," said one nurse during a Zoom call with the Everett City Council.
In all, 10 nurses shared their worries with the council.
"I’ve never seen anything like this before," said another.
They hope the council could pass an ordinance mandating hazard pay in an attempt to keep overly stressed workers on the job.
"It is becoming a crisis and the lack of action taken by our hospital is putting our community at risk and we are asking for your help," another nurse told elected leaders.
Providence says the nurse shortage is a problem statewide, leaving 6,100 nursing positions unfilled across Washington. The hospital says temporary nurses can fill in the gaps, but now the hospital is competing for temporary and permanent workers on a national level.
Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin thanked nurses for speaking out. The city attorney said it is unlikely elected leaders can enforce hazard pay, and Franklin says hospital officials acknowledged staffing struggles.
"(They are) acutely aware of the challenges they are facing, they are concerned and they are doing everything in their power, just as we are, to fill the vacancies they have," she said.
Providence says late last year, it invested $220 million nationwide in an attempt to retain and lure caregivers to open positions.
Next week, the Washington State Hospital Association will brief conditions state-wide, according to a Providence spokesperson.
Nurses in Everett say the burnout is accelerating departures and Bynum hopes the public hears their warning to stay healthy and remain patient if you end up needing hospital care.
"It's very frustrating when you feel like you haven’t done a very good job and you feel you’ve failed your patient at the end of the day," she said.