ST. LOUIS – Nurses at Saint Louis University Hospital (SLUH) have voted to authorize a strike, citing persistent issues, including understaffing, concerns for patient and staff safety, and management’s inability to recruit and retain experienced registered nurses (RNs).

Negotiations between SLUH nurses and the hospital have been ongoing since May 2023, primarily focused on addressing shortages of nurses and support staff, high staff turnover rates, and the hospital’s failure to attract and retain experienced nursing professionals.

The RN vacancy rate at SLUH has consistently exceeded 30 percent since the spring of 2022, posing serious risks to both patient and staff safety and leading to an uptick in workplace violence. On July 19, RNs held an informational picket to highlight their concerns.

Registered nurses at SSM Health SLUH in St. Louis, Missouri, voted with a majority to call for a strike if the ongoing contract negotiations fail to address the RNs’ longstanding concerns. Should the RN bargaining team decide to proceed with a strike, the nurses pledge to provide at least 10 days’ notice to the hospital to facilitate alternative arrangements for patient care.

SLUH nurses assert that they have been raising alarms about the staffing crisis and its impact on patient care for nearly two years. However, they claim that hospital management has consistently disregarded their suggestions for improving retention and working conditions. Since 2020, SLUH has hired more than 1,600 nurses, but the majority of them have subsequently left the hospital.

According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, as of August 29, 2020, there were 117,831 nurses in Missouri with active licenses, but the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that only 78,900 are actively working as nurses.

This suggests that there isn’t a nursing “shortage” in Missouri. Nationally, there are over a million registered nurses with active licenses who choose not to work at the bedside due to the hospital industry’s unsafe working conditions. Further data and information challenging the nurse “shortage” myth can be found here.

The National Nurses Organizing Committee has been representing the nurses at St. Louis University Hospital since 2012.