VA nurses protest for safer workplace conditions

Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 6:19 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Local nurses marched at the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center downtown division near 15th Street on Thursday.

Their main issues are retention and recruitment.

A nurse we spoke to says they are battling long hours, including mandatory overtime, as the VA works to fill the gaps of missing nurses.

These long hours are impacting patient care. That’s why they have taken to the side of the road to voice their concerns.

“What happens when you have six, seven, or five patients you can’t get to, a patient who needs something for pain? They have to wait,” said Irma Westmoreland, registered nurse, Charlie Norwood VA, Director of National Nurses United.

One of VA’s top priorities is recruiting, hiring, and retaining our great nurses

“We’re asking them to help us with the retention of nurses. We are losing nurses,” she said.

VA has advocated strongly for the PACT Act and RAISE Act, both of which have given us increased authority to raise pay caps for VA nurses across the country.

It’s to give the best care to their veterans.

“We aren’t disputing that, and we want that, but the way to do that is to provide the best possible working conditions for the nurse so they can provide the best possible care for the patients,” said Westmoreland.

Westmoreland says until more nurses can be hired, they’re working overtime.

“If you have to work an eight-hour shift, you might be mandated for another eight. If you work a 12, you might be mandated for another four,” said Westmoreland.

These long hours make it tough.

“It’s disheartening, and the nurses are tired, they’re tired. When you’re tired, you can make a mistake, and the nurses don’t want that. It’s kind of moral injury to the nurse because she’s doing her absolute best,” she said.

She’s hopeful this will allow them to have their voices heard.

Westmoreland says they’ll be at the Augusta Farmer’s Market every Saturday in September, encouraging people to sign petitions for better conditions for nurses.