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ONA Success Story: Providence Seaside Hospital

Mary Romanaggi is one of many nurses at Providence Seaside Hospital who have regularly seen or dealt with workplace violence.

“This had been going on for years. It happened enough that you assume it’s part of your job,” Romanaggi said.

But recently, an increase in psychiatric patients combined with mismanaged medications and an overflowing emergency room led to an increase in acts of violence against nurses and other staff. When nurses turned to management for help, they didn’t get the solution they hoped for.

“We asked management for security and we got maintenance men. It was dumped on our maintenance staff to play two roles; security and maintenance. They took a few trainings and they became our security team in addition to their regular jobs,” Romanaggi said.

In addition to being unfair to hospital staff and patients, the limited training workers received didn’t allow them to touch patients. Nurses still had to call the Seaside police department every time they had an incident or a violent patient in the emergency room.

“It got so bad that the police started getting angry with us. It created an ugly scene. At one point, a patient choked one of our CNAs right in front of a manager and a police officer who had brought in another patient. Afterward the police officer told the CNA she couldn’t press charges because the patient didn’t choke her long enough to cut off her airway and the manager’s response was, ‘Just write it up.’” Romanaggi said.

The nurses and staff felt like we were being ignored.

“We hit our breaking point when another CNA was choked and a doctor was hurt after a patient picked up one of the maintenance/security staff and threw him against the wall. It wasn’t safe for us or our patients. Instead of spending the money to improve safety, the hospital was willing to let it continue. At that point, we felt we had to do something,” Romanaggi said.

After meeting with their ONA labor representative, nurses made a plan. They started studying how ONA nurses at comparable facilities dealt with security issues; documenting violent incidents they saw at Providence Seaside Hospital and circulated a petition demanding trained, certified security staff at Providence Seaside.

“Sam, our Labor Rep, helped guide us. He got us going and made a big deal about it. He stayed on management and had us stay on them. We had meetings with management and we didn’t let up,” Romanaggi said.

In May, nurses’ efforts paid off. After compiling data on comparable hospitals’ security, documenting violent incidents in the ER and ICU, and getting more than 100 signatures on a staff petition, nurses convinced Providence Seaside Hospital’s new CEO to make changes.

Since then, the hospital has hired dedicated security guards to staff the facility seven days a week during the night shift; the time when the majority of violent incidents occur. While it isn’t perfect, the new security is already making a huge difference for nurses and staff at the facility.

“Everybody’s a lot happier with the new security. The night shift has already improved and when we say we need extra security for certain patients, we’ve gotten it. It’s much better than it was.

Before, we just took it as part of our jobs when someone calls you a bad name or screams and yells at you or even attempts to harm you. We have to remind people that taking verbal or physical abuse is not part of their job and we can do something about it.

Our nurses worked together with ONA to get the ball rolling. If we hadn’t kept on management to make a change, we never would have gotten security,” Romanaggi said.

Mary Romanaggi, RN, works in the ER and is the ONA bargaining unit chair at Providence Seaside Hospital.

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