Charlie Norwood VA nurses speak out on working conditions

Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 6:38 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Throughout the pandemic, nurses and first responders stepped up and were heroes helping us get by.

Many were overworked, while hospitals were understaffed.

While our status in the pandemic has changed, nurses at the Charlie Norwood VA say their working conditions have not.

We talked with nurses at the VA about those conditions.

The nurses are worried. They say they’ve voiced concerns to the higher-ups at Charlie Norwood, but nothing is getting better.

The president of the nurses’ union says they can’t afford to lose one more nurse on staff.

“Our nurses they’re just, they’re tired,” said Irma Westmoreland.

Westmoreland has worked as a nurse at the VA for 30 years.

“There’s no higher mission that you can have than to care for those who have borne the battle for our country,” she said.

She’s reached the point where she can retire and walk away. Instead, she’s sticking around to fight for other nurses.

“Since October the 1st, we’ve lost by our count, almost 90 nurses,” she said.

By the VA’s count, they’ve lost only 69, with many retiring or transferring. Staffing nurses is still a significant issue at all our area hospitals.

“There really isn’t a shortage of nurses...what you have is a shortage of nurses willing to work in the conditions we have,” said Westmoreland.

Westmoreland claims conditions such as inflexible schedules, higher patient loads, and making nurses work in departments they don’t have the skills to work in. Like moving a mental health nurse to the operating room. That’s what pushes people away.

“When you do that, it puts patients at risk and puts the nurses at risk,” she said.

She says the union has voiced concerns to VA leaders several times.

We asked if she feels her concerns are being heard.

“I feel like they’re hearing them, but I think they’re being ignored,” she said.

In a career where every decision matters, she wants their voices to matter too.

Westmoreland says she’s not retiring until things get better. She loves nursing and taking care of veterans, so her mission is to fight for better working conditions for all nurses.

“We can’t afford at Charlie Norwood VA to lose one more nurse,” said Westmoreland.

Charlie Norwood VA Statement:

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