Oregon nurses’ contract creates a pathway to improve patient care

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Registered nurses at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Ore., are celebrating their overwhelming vote to approve a new contract with the St. Charles Health System. The agreement, which covers 900 registered nurses represented by the Oregon Nurses Association, creates a pathway to improve patient care and proactively address staffing issues, and includes wage and benefit improvements through 2022.

“The newly ratified contract helps ensure we are providing the best quality care for our community,” says ONA bargaining unit chair and registered nurse David Hilderbrand. “We look forward to taking the next step of implementing the new contract and utilizing the new tools provided to address shared concerns like staffing and practice standards, which allows us to focus on our patients.”

The agreement addresses the priorities of the nurses during their contract campaign:

  • New groups have been created so nurses float between similar departments, providing more flexibility for staffing and ensuring all patients are treated by nurses trained to meet their specific needs.
  • A shared governance structure has been created to increase accountability around staffing and practice issues. This new model will allow direct-care nurses and managers to work together to quickly address practice concerns.
  • Nurses can be hired into St. Charles at step levels that are consistent with their years of experience, which will enhance recruiting efforts.
  • The teams reached a fair agreement on wages and benefits, including variable cost-of-living increases to provide financial flexibility for the hospital while helping recruit and retain nurses.

Neysa Larson, a registered nurse who has worked at Bend for two and half years and was on the bargaining team, was proud to see the high levels of nurse participation during negotiations. “We all just came together. This contract will create better structure for shared governance as well as addressing ongoing staffing issues. It will give us real power to address how we take care of our patients and have a voice.”
The new agreement will run through Dec. 31, 2022.

[Adrienne Coles; Oregon Nurses Association]