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HL Shorts: Why Are Nurses Unionizing?

Analysis  |  By G Hatfield  
   January 30, 2024

This leader outlines the dissatisfaction of nurses across the industry.

On this week’s episode of HL Shorts, we hear from Katie Boston-Leary, Director of Nursing Programs at the American Nurses Association, about the factors leading to nurse dissatisfaction and the increase in union and strike activity across the country.

What are the underlying causes of the recent union and strike activity happening in the U.S?

There's a generalized dissatisfaction of the current state of [nursing] from nurses. There are a number of things that nurses that have historically [and] traditionally struggled with, and I think that the phenomenon that's happening right now is nurses are really saying “no more.” There was dissatisfaction, but it was a dull roar, and now a lot of what's bubbling is manifesting in a lot of this organized activity. That is a big concern for a lot of administrators and hospital executives, but in some respects, nurses are using this as a last resort. [Some are having a] “tried everything and this is where we are” kind of approach to this, and then there's some that are saying, “you know, maybe this is the way for us to have a voice, so getting unionized is probably the way to go.”

There is a lot under the surface that's causing this, starting with the staffing and the crisis that we're in. Then you have the well-being piece where [the] nurses’ overall health and well-being is compromised because of everything that's happening, and we have data that actually links those two, staffing and well-being, together for nurses. Then there's everything else after that, that's a close second, third and 4th and 5th. There's workplace violence, there's unmanageable workloads, there's [the] hierarchical structure of healthcare systems. There's the feeling of not being heard, the feeling of exhaustion and not being able to do what you figure patients deserve, and leaving everyday feeling that moral distress. All those things have brought us to this point, unfortunately.

G Hatfield is the nursing editor for HealthLeaders.


There is a general sense of dissatisfaction among nurses that is leading to them wanting to unionize or go on strike.

The nursing shortage is leading to staffing issues, which then lead to issues with overall well-being.

Workplace violence, workloads, and exhaustion are some other factors that are leading to the increase in union and strike activity.

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