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SLU Hospital Nurses Vote 'No Confidence' in Administrators, Citing Staffing, Morale, and Safety

Analysis  |  By Carol Davis  
   April 29, 2022

The claims are 'inaccurate, misleading, and counterproductive,' hospital administration responds.

Nurses with SSM Health Saint Louis University (SLU) Hospital have overwhelmingly passed a vote of "no confidence" in the leadership of their chief nursing officer (CNO) and human resources director because of staffing shortages, low morale, and safety concerns.

With most of the hospital's eligible nurses voting, 93% of voters voted "no confidence" in the leadership of Rita Fowler, CNO, and Chris Greenley, human resources director. Voting was conducted April 20-24 by National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU).

Nurses called the vote because decisions made by SLU Hospital administration have been "detrimental to staff recruitment and retention, and therefore patient care," according to a press release from NNOC/NNU.

The union's claims are "inaccurate, misleading, and counterproductive," the hospital responded in a statement provided to HealthLeaders.

The hospital has a more than 30% vacancy rate for nursing positions, up from less than 10% in the summer of 2021, and despite a growing number of vacancies—more than 235—SLU Hospital has onboarded only 14 staff nurses in the last three months, according to NNOC/NNU.

Most of the current RNs were hired at SLU Hospital before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the union says.

"These numbers aren't just about moral distress and exhaustion from working during the pandemic or nurses leaving for traveler gigs," said Earline Shephard, RN.

"We know why people leave. It’s the little things that could be fixed but aren’t. We are waiting weeks for a response when a piece of equipment is broken or a payroll error occurs," she said. "It feels like a slap in the face when nurses aren’t supported and valued after being expected to be superheroes for the last two years.”

The union charges that Greenley and Fowler have repeatedly rejected suggestions made by RNs to improve retention, morale, and safety.

"Overall staffing numbers continue to worsen, yet SSM recently cut extra shift incentives and overtime pay. In late 2021, Greenley announced that the hospital intended to offer retention bonuses and increase hiring bonuses, and then failed to follow through on those promises," according to the union.

The nurses union also charges that, despite nurses raising numerous staffing and safety concerns in advance, SLU Hospital opened an additional 15 beds in the former main hospital building last month, and has announced plans to open an additional 25 beds in July.

"We are opening our doors to more and more patients when we don’t have the staff to care for the ones we already have," said Meghan Boresi, RN. "We’re relying on temporary staff and nurses working overtime, but that’s not a recipe for quality care. Nurses don’t want to go home wondering if we missed something because we were exhausted or were the only nurse on that shift who really knew the hospital policy and protocol."                          

SSM Health SLU Hospital is facing the same COVID-related burdens as other acute-care facilities, the hospital's statement said.    

"Hospitals and healthcare systems across the country continue to face significant challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the nation’s critical shortage of nurses and health care professionals. Now, more than ever, we must work together to meet the needs of those who depend on us for care," according to the statement. "We are disappointed the NNOC has chosen to make inaccurate, misleading and counterproductive claims that paint a negative image of our hospital and the life-saving care our team provides."

"SSM Health remains committed to fostering a positive, supportive workplace where team members can thrive," according to the hospital, "and we’ve made significant investments in our recruitment efforts, including competitive compensation, opportunities for career development and growth, and programs to support employee physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being."

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.


93% of voting nurses voted "no confidence" in the leadership of their chief nursing officer and human resources director.

The hospital has a more than 30% vacancy rate for nursing positions, up from less than 10% in the summer of 2021, nurses said.

Many of those claims are "inaccurate," a hospital statement said.

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