WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Registered nurses at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis held a rally Thursday morning on the National Day of Action by National Nurses United (NNU). A large group lined the street outside of the hospital. They waved signs and encouraged drivers to honk in support.

“This was just the nurses who were off today,” said Sara Wilson, an Ascension Via Christi St. Francis Ortho/Trauma Surgery nurse. “Half of our nurses are still in the hospital working. We are here showing up for our community, and we know the community has our back.”

NNU said the purpose was to demand the hospital industry end the profession’s staffing crisis by providing safe numbers of nurses to care for patients. Ascension Via Christi says the union held the rally to draw attention to the union’s bargaining agenda.

“In last month’s New York Times article, the entire world got to see just how dire the situation is at Ascension facilities,” said Shelly Rader, an emergency department RN at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis. “But we see it every day, and it’s time for change.”

“We’re perpetually short-staffed,” Wilson said. “Management needs to get serious about retaining nurses and recruiting new ones to replace the nurses they’ve driven away from this facility.”

KSN News reached out to Ascension Via Christi. A spokesperson sent us this statement:

We respect the rights of Ascension Via Christi associates to participate, or not participate, in union activities.

“The rally held by California-based National Nurses United is an effort to draw attention to the union’s bargaining agenda.

“We are committed to bargaining in good faith with NNU over the terms and conditions of employment for the limited group of Nursing associates at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis it now represents. We have offered NNU several dates to begin the complex process of negotiating a labor contract. 

“We look forward to starting talks soon so that NNU-represented associates may have the  opportunity to receive the competitive pay and benefits we provide our nonunion associates.”

Ascension Via Christi

Wilson said the rally was not just a bargaining tool.

“This is absolutely more staffing than it is pay for me, and I believe for my colleagues as well,” she said. “We need better staffing so we can take care of our patients the way we want to, and that is what executives have ignored for so long.”