Healthcare workers head to Olympia, await passage of safe staffing standards bill

SPOKANE, Wash. — Massive burnout from staffing shortages is putting a strain on many healthcare workers in Washington. They’re saying working conditions are unsafe, and safe-staffing standards are the solution.

Theresa Bowden has worked years as a respiratory therapist for Sacred Heart, and she says she hasn’t seen a staffing shortage like this before.

“COVID didn’t help by far because it definitely added extra stress and it’s still there and it’s not going to go away,” Bowden said.

Efforts to pass safe staffing standards first started in 2022, but they weren’t successful.

We know that there’s thousands of nurses and other healthcare workers in Washington who have cut back hours, turned to travel nursing, left the professionals altogether, or retired early to deal with extreme stress. Our only hope recruiting and retaining healthcare workers is to make working conditions in hospitals manageable,” said David Keepnews, executive director for the Washington State Nurses Association.

A group of healthcare workers are now heading back to Olympia for the 2023 session.

“The thing that nurses want the most is safe staffing standards, that way we can give our patients the best care that we can give them,” said Jacob Garcia, a nurse at Astria Sunnyside Hospital.

Local health providers like Providence say they are aware of the staffing shortages and they will continue to make efforts to train and hire more staff.

“We need safe staffing standards in Washington state now even more than we did last year,” Keepnews said.

The bill for safe staffing standards for healthcare workers will be introduced on Monday, the first day of the legislative session.

READ: Providence hospital aims to solve a staffing crisis with ‘earn while you learn’ program

READ: COVID cases are declining but hospitals still face staffing shortages