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Members of nurses union protest in Kissimmee to call on hospitals to increase staffing

Chris Setzer (r) was among a group of nurses protesting staff shortages outside Osceola Regional Medical Center. Photo: Matthew Peddie / WMFE
Matthew Peddie
Chris Setzer, right, was among a group of nurses protesting staff shortages outside Osceola Regional Medical Center on Thursdsay, Jan. 13, 2022.

Chris Setzer, an ICU nurse at Osceola Regional Medical Center, says it’s not a nursing shortage, just a shortage of nurses willing to work under current conditions.

National Nurses United is calling on hospitals to boost staffing levels. Members of the union for registered nurses protested outside hospitals in 12 states, including Florida, on Thursday.

Outside Osceola Regional Medical Center in Kissimmee, about 20 nurses waved signs that read: "Staff up for safe care."

Chris Setzer, who works in the cardiac intensive care unit, used to spend about nine hours out of her 12-hour shift with her patients. 

“But with tripling now, I’m lucky if I see them three hours a day,” said Setzer. “So the remaining nine hours, who is watching your ICU loved one? It’s not the nursing staff because we’re just not available.”

Tripling, said Setzer, is when ICU nurses are asked to take care of more than two patients. 

“So what happens is instead of an ICU nurse taking care of two critically ill patients, an ICU nurse is now being asked to take care of three, sometimes four ICU patients which is a very unsafe assignment,” Setzer said,.

Setzer said it’s not a nursing shortage, just a shortage of nurses willing to work under these conditions. She said a lot of nurses have left since the start of the COVID pandemic.

June Brown, who works in the COVID ICU, said it’s demoralizing, but she has no plans to leave the job. 

“The next patient could be my mom. The next patient could be my husband. I watched my neighbor die: I coded him. I don’t want to see that again,” said Brown.

“I want safe care. I can’t stay home and hope somebody else [does] it. I’ve got to be there if I want it done, and I’m not going to leave because we need safe care for patients and safe environments for the nurse.”

Through tears, Brown described how her neighbor was admitted to hospital with COVID pneumonia last spring. 

“Even though he’s my neighbor, he’s like my grandfather. He was in his 80s, almost 90,” said Brown.

“It’s like it happened yesterday. Because I have to pass his house to go to my home every day. When I look, I don’t see him outside. I don’t see him watering his plants. He’s not there waving to me. I miss him.”

The union said a recent nationwide survey of its members found 68% of them had considered quitting. 

They want hospitals to hire more permanent staff nurses, consider a wider range of educational qualifications and improve cross training of existing staff. 

In a statement, Osceola Regional Medical Center CEO David Shimp said the hospital staff had been working extremely hard during the latest COVID surge and throughout the pandemic.

“We’re proud of how everyone has worked together to provide high-quality care to our patients during this critical time,” said Shimp.

“Our fight against COVID is not over quite yet, and external activity like the upcoming NNU day of action will not distract from our focus of caring for our Orlando community.”
Copyright 2022 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.

Matthew Peddie