Nurses in the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement (CRONA) have voted to ratify new three-year contracts between CRONA and Stanford Health Care and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, according to a Monday press release from the union.
The two sides came to a tentative agreement on Friday, nearly a week after nurses began striking for fairer nursing contracts. The ratification of the agreement, which was supported by 83% of eligible voting nurses in CRONA, means that nurses will resume working on Tuesday under new contracts, according to the union.
“After extensive discussions, we were able to reach a contract that reflects our shared priorities and enhances existing benefits supporting our nurses’ health, well-being and ongoing professional development,” wrote Stanford Health Care spokesperson Lisa Kim in a statement to The Daily. “We look forward to welcoming our union-represented nurses back tomorrow.”
During a Monday press conference, CRONA president and pediatric oncology nurse Colleen Borges expressed pride in the union’s negotiations team for working to reach an agreement. Borges also thanked community members for their support, including elected officials like U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), who spoke to nurses about their concerns during their strike on Friday. She also emphasized the importance of unity between nurses in helping CRONA reach an agreement.
“We were committed to staying out on the picket line until we were able to reach solutions to the issues our members asked us to address,” she said.
Staffing was one key issue for nurses during their negotiations with the hospitals. Staffing issues have contributed to high turnover, increased overtime and decreased resources for nurses in recent years, according to cardiac ICU nurse Kimberley Reed. “There’s really no time for us to rest and recharge,” Reed said. “All of this is just not sustainable.”
The new agreement with the hospitals helps ensure that staffing is based on patient acuity, according to Reed. The agreement also provides incentive pay for nurses in critical care units and other units that have been historically difficult to staff. This incentive program aims to help retain existing nurses and encourage other experienced nurses to come to Stanford, Reed added.
Nurses also secured key victories in mental health resources. Highlights from the agreement include a $1,000 stipend that can potentially go toward a private counselor for nurses seeking support, according to ER nurse David Hernandez. The agreement will also give CRONA a voice in the reworking of the hospitals’ employee assistance program, which provides mental health support to nurses.
Hernandez said that mental health among nurses and healthcare providers is an “ongoing issue” that the United States needs to address. “We are hopeful and grateful that Stanford has agreed to work with CRONA to get us closer to the goal of excellent mental health for nurses across America,” he said.
Nurses also secured wage increases and improvements in health benefits for retired nurses. These benefits will increase by 50% for most retirees, according to the union. Nurses have previously expressed frustration over wages that they felt did not accurately reflect the cost of living in the Bay Area.
The main sticking point between CRONA and the hospitals was bridging a “philosophical” difference in the two parties’ initial approaches to the negotiations, according to CRONA vice president and radiology nurse Kathy Stormberg. While CRONA was focused on making nursing a more sustainable career, the hospitals were focused on making more nurses available, according to Stormberg. For her, the new agreement is a sign that CRONA’s concerns are finally being addressed.
“The hospitals working with us to come to a final agreement shows that they at last heard us,” Stormberg said.