MSU nursing students affected by nurses’ strike

Students enrolled in Minnesota State University, Mankato’s nursing program were affected by the statewide nurses’ strike last week that went from Sept. 12 to Sept. 14. Nearly 15,000 nurses participated in this three-day strike that included 15 hospitals around the Twin Cities and Twins Ports area.

Believed to be one of the biggest private-sector nurses’ strikes in the U.S., the strike impacted the lives of those who protested, those who were patients and those who continued to work at the hospitals during the strike.

Patricia Young, Chairperson of the School of Nursing within the College of Allied Health and Nursing, has been at MSU since 1986 and recalls the last MNA strike in 2017.

“I think the issues they are fighting for are similar. They are looking at trying to maintain safe staffing levels and a better nurse-to-patient ratio that’s one concern, and of course salary,” said Young. “This strike is an educational opportunity and really broadens the nursing students’ perspective and look at the bigger picture.”

Strike guidelines consist of letting the hospitals know a week in advance when a strike will take place as they need time to prepare and potentially bring in out-of-state nurses to help with the workload. 

Most hospitals may take up to a week or longer to reorganize after the strike in order to get their staff back to a regular workflow. Frequent switches between a patient’s normal healthcare providers can delay patients from receiving quality healthcare.

Currently, MSU’s nursing program has seven clinical groups consisting of about eight students per group. Those clinical sites can range anywhere from the Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato to facilities in the Twin Cities area such as Abbott Northwestern. 

“Some of our students are out three weeks while the hospitals prepare for all of the nurses coming in from out of state,” Young said.

Students must put in 60 hours for their clinical sites over the span of a few weeks. According to Young, three of those clinical groups are missing about 30 hours of those 60.

Lauren Merten-Johnson, a third-semester senior in the nursing program, is a student representative of her clinical cohort at Abbott Northwestern. 

“We weren’t allowed to go to our clinical so now we have to make those hours up in one way or another,” Merten-Johnson said. 

Being a part of a hospital that has a union is an important quality she looks for when job searching post-graduation in May. 

“You can’t provide sufficient patient care if you aren’t backed by the facility you work for. We see the benefits of the strike but also the downside because we are not able to have clinical,” Merten-Johnson added.

Nurses may be subjected to 12-hour work days and all-around patient care. Other nurses around the state have been seeing the results of the strike as there was an influx of patients in other hospitals.

“At the clinical place I was at, there were more patients because they were coming from the other hospitals that were affected so it was busier than usual,” Piper Gare, second-semester nursing student at MSU, said.

Other students in the program agreed that, even though they were still able to attend their clinical sites, they were aiding more patients than normal.

“It was kind of hard because I was on a med search floor so my nurse had three to four patients and I’m only with her for one patient, so I didn’t really get to talk to her as much,” Kiersten Hanisch, second-semester nursing student at MSU, said.

The nurse’s union is seeking about a 30% raise in salary over the span of three years. However, most hospitals in the Twin Cities have stated it is not within their budget and have countered at a 10-12% raise over those three years according to the Twin Cities Hospital press release.

Header Photo: Students attended to Careers in Nursing and Healthcare Career Fair to learn more about potential job opportunities. The nurses’ strike in Minnesota has several students looking closer at areas of employment. (Kaleb Betwos/The Reporter)

Write to Julia Barton at julia.barton@mnsu.edu

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