WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Nurses at Via Christi-St. Francis in Wichita voted to unionize.

The vote was 378 to 194 to join the National Nurses Organizing Committee, an affiliate of National Nurses United. The National Labor Relations Board conducted the election on Nov. 9 and 10 by secret ballot.

“It’s a historic day for the Wichita nurses and our community,” says Angela Cammarn, RN in the cardiac critical care unit at St. Francis, in a news release from the union. “We are joining a strong community of union nurses in Kansas and across the United States. As nurses, we are committed to providing excellent care to our patients. NNOC/NNU nurses have a track record of fighting for safer conditions so they can provide safe care to their communities. We plan on doing the same here!”

 “Winning our union election is just the beginning,” says Angela de Souza, RN in the post-anesthesia care unit. “We are elated to bargain with management as St. Francis nurses. Safer staffing, workplace violence prevention, and local nurse retention will be at the forefront of our campaign. As union nurses, we will fight for a first contract that will protect both our patients and staff.”

Via Christi-St. Francis is the first private-sector hospital to become unionized by registered nurses. It is owned by Ascension, which owns 143 hospitals and other health facilities in 19 states, making it one of the largest Catholic, not-for-profit hospital chains in the United States.

Kevin Strecker, a senior vice president for Ascension Kansas, released the following statement to KSN News:

“We are disappointed that the Registered Nurses voted for union representation at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis. We strongly believe we can be most effective working collaboratively without union representation. We respect the voting process and are committed to ensuring it is followed during the vote certification period.”

Via Christi-St. Francis nurses will next decide on a team of representatives who will handle future negotiations with Ascension. They will also survey nurses to determine the key issues they wish to bargain over.