Newly unionized nurses in Wichita take action to address safety after shot fired inside hospital

The request to determine the hospital system's security policy comes after a shot was accidentally fired in the pediatric unit.
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 5:18 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The newly unionized nurses at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis in Wichita took their first action this week, addressing safety and security at the hospital. This follows the discharge of a gun this month on the Ascension Via Christi St. Francis pediatric floor.

National Nurses United (NNU), which represents the unionized nurses at Via Christi St. Francis, said it wants to learn about the hospital’s response plan for situations like the shooting, to better protect patients and staff.

There were no injuries after the single gunshot was fired on Nov. 7 in Ascension Via Christi’s secured pediatric unit, and the hospital said it’d be looking at additional security measures. On Tuesday, nurses from the union requested a meeting with hospital leadership.

In a statement from the hospital, Via Christi said union nurses didn’t follow the correct process for requesting the meeting.

“On Tuesday, union nurses at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis attempted to circumvent the bargaining process by trying to set up a meeting without a union representative present. We notified the NNU that it would be unlawful for us to meet with individuals without a union representative present. It is our hope that the nurses union will comply with the law going forward as it is our intention to bargain in good faith to reach an agreement that is in the best interest of our associates, patients and community,” the statement read.

A nurses union member said the meeting is a priority, not because of a shooting incident, but because it’s important to make sure patients feel safe.

“(It is) very important to have a safe place for our patients as well as our nurses,” said Ascension Via Christi St. Francis Emergency Department Nurse Shelly Rader, RN. “In light of everything that is going on, we are excited about meeting with management at the table about getting plans in place for our patents as well as our staff.”

It isn’t just nurses seeking further information into the gunshot inside the hospital’s pediatric unit. Britani Wade was at the hospital when the shot was fired. She said she was in the secured pediatric unit with her son when the bullet came through the wall and into his patient room.

“We were in the bathroom and we heard a really loud noise. I thought it sounded like something had fallen that was really heavy from above,” Wade said.

She said the immediate response by hospital staff left her frustrated and with questions, as Wade felt they had no clear protocol for what to do.

“When you go to the hospital, you want to know that you’re safe,” Wade said. “You’re super vulnerable already, it’s likely traumatic even. And it is infuriating to me that things like this can happen.”

The next day, Wade said she went back to the hospital and met with management.

“They were really upset it happened,” Wade said. “They seemed to take my concerns seriously, but when I asked them, ‘what is your gun policy,’ they said, ‘no guns in the hospital.’”

Wade said she’s trying to learn more about the specific policies and procedures to try to keep these things from happening at the hospital. The nurses union expressed hope that the hospital will listen to its concerns.

In its continued response to the nurses union, Ascension Via Christi said it places a high priority on safety: “Associate and patient safety are always our highest priority. That’s why our security team is led by a former Wichita Police Department captain and why we have armed security guards, alongside the Wichita Police Department, to respond to any type of safety threat. It also is why we offer online and in-person workplace safety training to all associates, to help them recognize and appropriately respond to any conflicts or threats to their well-being. At Ascension Via Christi St Joseph, we also have a 25-member team of Mental Health Protection Workers trained to help de-escalate situations as needed. We’ve added perimeter fencing and installed additional video cameras in our hospitals’ and clinics’ parking areas, units, hallways and entry points, which are monitored from Security Dispatch.”