Union: overwhelmed hospital nurse quits over staff shortage

Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 5:49 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

POTSDAM, New York (WWNY) - Nursing shortages are hitting hospitals across the country. On Monday night at Canton-Potsdam Hospital, one nurse hit the tipping point and quit. That prompted the nurses’ union to put a spotlight on the problem.

“Two nurses called out ill. Another nurse showed up for the shift, saw what was going on, and did not have any clue how she could even possibly take care of that many patients with one other person. That would put the patients at risk, it would put her own license at risk. She felt she needed to walk,” said Susan Creighton Quinell, the president of the New York State Nurses Association for Canton-Potsdam Hospital.

She says Monday night was unlike anything she had ever seen.

“I can honestly say, this is the worst situation I’ve seen us in, and I worked as a nurse’s aide the year before I got my license. So in 26 years, this is the worst situation I have seen the facility in,” said Quinell.

As one nurse walked out, she says other nurses came in to help with five nurses on the floor.

“The patients are always the first priority, but it’s very hard for any nurse to put themselves in a position where they can’t care for a patient and they’re expected to be there,” said Quinell.

A spokesperson for St. Lawrence Health, which runs the hospital, acknowledges the health system “is still navigating staffing challenges related to the ongoing regional and national nursing shortage...While we regularly meet the nurse staffing commitments we abide by New York State Staffing Guidelines, unanticipated nurse absences can briefly impact staffing levels during specific shifts. When they occur, these instances are resolved as quickly as possible. We remain committed to ensuring we have the appropriate level of nursing staff to provide the high-quality care our patients deserve and expect.”

Quinell says many seasoned nurses have left in the last year-and-a-half - discouraged with how things are going at the facility.

“For a nurse to walk off the job, something has to be very wrong,” she said.

Quinell says she hopes hospital management will work on retaining current nurses.