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IU Health nurses warn of unsafe practices, work to form union

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — IU Health nurses are sounding the alarm, saying patients are at risk until there is change. Some nurses are working to form a union at IU Health. Some nurses told 24-Hour News 8 a union is the best way to give nurses a voice, and in turn give patients the best care possible.

“We as nurses have taken an oath. An oath to advocate for our patients,” said registered nurse Tiffanie Skillman.

It’s the oath that motivates nurses like Tiffanie Skillman to say something isn’t right.

“The number one issue is safety. Patient safety,” said Skillman.

Skillman believes a union could solve the problems that she says have real consequences.

“We’re faced with an issue where we have a whole lot of sick patients and very few nurses to take care of them,” said Skillman,

Connie Rumple, an RN at Methodist, agrees. She’s seen her patient-load grow over the past few years.

“I try to treat those patients and take care of them the way I would want my family to be taken care of. It’s not possible the way things are now,” said Rumple, “I feel every day when I go into work unfortunately I feel like my job and responsibilities outweigh what’s truly safe and that I’m capable to do.”

It’s not just the ratio that nurses say worries them. Rumple and Skillman say the latest attendance policy makes nurses feel obligated to go to work, even when they’re sick, for fear of punishment.

“It’s always in the back of my mind.’Well I don’t really feel good today. I’ve got a little bit of a fever, but gosh I’ve got to go in’,” said Rumple.

The nurses worry being around patients when they are sick themselves could make patients worse.

“It’s a bad situation for the nurse and the patient that she’s caring for,” said Skillman.

The nurses have signed a petition rallying for a chance to vote to unionize. The nurses aim to get 70 percent of the IU Health nurses to sign the petition. The nurses also hope a union would present the opportunity for wage increases.

“We’re not expecting to get 10, 20 dollar raises, but we expect to be paid in accordance to the colleagues that are in our similar roles in our region,” said Skillman.

IU Health issued this statement to 24-Hour News 8:

“IU Health believes that a union is not in the best interest of our nurses or patients.  Our nurses are highly valued members of the patient care team. Involving a third party would only reduce the effectiveness of the open and direct relationship for which we strive.

We respect our team members’ right to explore joining a union – but we also want team members to have full access to complete, factual information about what it means to be represented by a labor union.”

Neither nurse thinks that open and direct relationship exists.

“I know there are nurses who are scared,” said Rumple.

Both nurses worry speaking up could cost them their jobs.

“I’m being very bold about coming to you and talking to you about what’s going on.  We need to have people who are willing to be bold and speak out because it’s the right thing to do,” said Skillman.

Several other nurses said they are against forming a union. Many agree there are serious issues at IU Health, but not everyone believes a union is the answer.

24-Hour News 8 sent IU Health a list of the nurses’ complaints, but did not get a response addressing the individual issues.