EVERETT — A widely viewed TikTok video alleges all of the nurses in the “med-surg” unit at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett called out of work on Jan. 8.
They did so because, on Jan. 7, they each had eight patients, twice as many as they should have, according to staffing plans agreed on by nurses and management. The nurses didn’t want a repeat, so they called out the next day, “allegedly,” the TikTok creator narrates, adding that three travel nurses also refused to come in.
The TikTok video was recorded by “TheNurseErica,” who does not work for Providence. It had garnered more than 62,000 views and more than 600 comments as of Monday.
But a nurse who does work for Providence said the entire shift of nurses calling out was not in the med-surg unit; it was in medical-telemetry — or “med-tele” for short. Patients in the med-tele unit are recovering from critical injuries and need constant monitoring of heart activity, blood pressure and respiration.
With the current short staffing, only a few nurses have been scheduled, not eight or nine plus a charge nurse to cover a full unit of 32 patients. Other nurses shared the Jan. 8 shift schedule with The Herald, showing two nurses took unplanned time off that day, leaving two nurses there — one of whom was training the other.
The nurses asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
@the.nurse.erica #nursesoftiktok #powerinnumbers #medsurgnurse ♬ original sound – TheNurseErica
According to Providence, it’s true that day shift nurses in med-tele called out on Jan. 8, but some of the other facts are wrong. Samantha Desmarais, spokesperson for Regional Medical Center Everett, wrote in an email that this isn’t “uncommon during respiratory season.” That weekend across the entire hospital, one travel nurse, not three, refused a shift and canceled their contract, according to the hospital. There is not a minimum staffing ratio in the travel nurses’ contracts.
In response to The Herald’s question about how the hospital managed any staffing shortage on Jan. 8, Desmarais wrote: “Patient volume and staffing ratios are dynamic during any given day, including the shift in question. Providence is fortunate, due to its size, to have the flexibility to float caregivers to the hospital’s areas of greatest need to safely care for patients — even during a national staffing crisis.”
As The Herald reported throughout 2022, Providence nurses tested multiple times at Everett City Council and Snohomish County Council meetings about staffing challenges and patient safety.
None of the nurses who worked in the med-tele unit during that Jan. 8 weekend came forward to speak to The Herald. However, a nurse in the unit said in an interview they have recently had seven to eight patients per nurse. And the charge nurse — who is not supposed to have any patients — has had anywhere from two to seven patients.
The med-tele nurse also said: “When nurses are forced to work with more than the recommended nurse-to-patient ratios it can result in adverse safety events, errors and delayed care, which can potentially increase the patient’s hospital length of stay, morbidity and mortality.”
The state Legislature is considering at least two related bills this session, including a nurse staffing ratio bill, Senate Bill 5236, and the creation of a staffing innovation collaborative, Senate Bill 5537.
Desmarais said: “We are working on long-term solutions and innovative workforce models of care delivery to address the workforce staffing crisis that we, along with hospitals around the nation, currently face. The past few years have been difficult, and we are thankful for our caregivers who provide excellent care to the community every day.”
Joy Borkholder: 425-339-3430; [email protected]; Twitter: @jlbinvestigates.