Registered nurses in 16 states and the District of Columbia are planning a national “Day of Action” by engaging in strikes, picketing, leafleting, rallies, and candlelight vigils on Wednesday, November 12, in support of demands by National Nurses United (“NNU”) for tougher Ebola safety precautions in the nation’s hospitals.  As we reported previously, NNU has launched a multi-pronged campaign to achieve increased training and protection for nurses who may be called upon to treat Ebola patients.  Wednesday’s Day of Action is the latest development in that campaign.

The NNU is demanding optimal personal protective equipment for nurses and other caregivers who interact with Ebola patients. Specifically, full-body hazmat suits that meet the American Society for Testing and Materials F1670 standard for blood penetration, F1671 standard for viral penetration, and that leave no skin exposed or unprotected, and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-approved powered air purifying respirators with an assigned protection factor of at least 50.  The union is also demanding that hospitals provide extensive hands-on training for RNs and other health workers who might encounter an Ebola patient, including ongoing education and review of the use of personal protective equipment and infection control protocols.

Actions in support of these measures include a two-day strike at 86 Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics in California, starting on November 11, by 18,000 RNs and nurse practitioners who have been engaged in negotiations with Kaiser for several months.  The planned strike cites Ebola preparedness as part of a broader protest alleging the erosion of patient care standards.  In a November 10 statement, Kaiser vigorously disputed the NNU’s claims and expressed disappointment at the planned job action.

Additional strikes will involve roughly 600 RNs at two other California hospitals – Sutter Tracy and Watsonville General Hospital – and 400 RNs at Providence Hospital in Washington D.C., where nurses voted to unionize last December.  Additional events include picketing, rallies, and vigils at hospitals and government buildings (including the White House) in Washington, D.C.; New York; Chicago; Houston; St. Louis; Kansas City; Las Vegas; Lansing, Michigan; Massillon, Ohio; Augusta, Georgia; Bar Harbor, Maine; Durham, North Carolina; St. Paul, Minnesota; Memphis, Tennessee; and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, while nurses in Massachusetts are planning to distribute leaflets at commuter stations.