Hospitals sued for endangering nurse, patient safety

Nurses in Washington are hoping to change the way the state values breaks and safety, as evidenced by lawsuits filed against four hospitals last week for not providing rest or meal breaks. The Washington State Nurses Association, which represents more than 16,000 registered nurses, says full rest is essential to preventing fatigue and fatigue-related medical errors.

"These lawsuits should put every hospital in the state on notice that they cannot work nurses through their breaks without consequences," Christine Himmelsbach, MN, RN, Assistant Executive Director of Labor Relations for WSNA, said in a statement. "By imposing a financial penalty for failing to provide uninterrupted breaks, we hope these lawsuits will ensure that hospitals make breaks a priority."

The organization filed suits at Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, Tacoma General Hospital in Tacoma, Evergreen Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue and Holy Family Hospital in Spokane.

So far, cases decided against Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane and Seattle-based University of Washington Medical Center ruled that those hospitals are required to provide uninterrupted rest breaks to its registered nurses.

"We are committed to ensuring that every nurse in Washington receives their full breaks and we will fight in the workplace, in the courts, and in the legislature," said Himmelsbach.

For more:
- here's the WSNA press release