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Austin nurses hold candlelight vigil in nationwide protest highlighting unsafe conditions

Ascension Seton nurses gathered at the administrative offices of Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin on Thursday evening.

AUSTIN, Texas — Nurses across Austin gathered for a candlelight vigil Thursday evening as part of a nationwide protest that highlights the "quad-demic," which they say spotlights "the hospital industry's prioritization of money over patient care."

Ascension Seton nurses met at the administrative offices of Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin to emphasize the issues that nurses across the country are experiencing. 

“I’m taking action today with nurses in Austin and across the country because we are fed up with the unsustainable conditions of nursing and the band-aid solutions that hospitals are putting forward,” said Kristine Kittelson, an Ascension Seton Medical Center mother-baby registered nurse. “We need the hospital industry to start putting their nurses – and patient care – above profits. That means significant investments in staffing so hospitals can recruit and retain nurses.”

During the vigil, nurses shed light on several issues surrounding hospitals.

According to a press release from National Nurses United (NNU), the nurses are emphasizing "this winter's surge in RSV, influenza and COVID-19 patents results in crisis conditions because of a decades-long campaign by hospitals to decrease inpatient beds - particularly in pediatric units and units deemed less profitable - and short-staff units in order to maximize profits."

“We’re the most trusted profession in America because we do everything in our power to take care of our patients, whether it’s at the bedside or on the streets to fight back against corporate greed,” NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN, said, referencing the December 2022 Gallup polling that found nurses hold the highest professional ranking among Americans for ethics and honesty – a recognition they’ve claimed for the past 21 years. 

“On our national day of action, NNU members will stand up for staffing models that adequately protect patients, nurses, and our communities against public health crises," Castillo said.

The NNU is made up of about 225,000 members, making it the largest union of RNs.

"I think people should be really alarmed at the level of urgency and the concerns that the nurses are raising," said Jason Lopez, president of the Austin Central Labor Council.

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