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Nursing shortages are not a one-system problem

Shari Chavez
Shari Chavez

As a nurse for 38 years, I have had the privilege to care for patients in a variety of roles including as a nurse on the front line at a neonatal intensive care unit in Las Vegas. From there, I now have the honor of leading nurse and physician collaboration and service initiatives like patient experience, nursing recruitment, retention and development for the Far West Division of HCA Healthcare (including Sunrise Health system). I can attest that HCA Healthcare is a nursing-first organization. 

I was disheartened by the March 2 opinion editorial written by an outspoken labor union representative attacking my colleagues, our hospitals and HCA Healthcare. The article purposefully ignores the reality that all hospitals in Southern Nevada and our country are facing — a national nursing shortage that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the darkest days of the pandemic, I witnessed the extraordinary talent and compassion of our nurses, day in and day out. The care they provided to our patients during the greatest healthcare crisis we have ever experienced is inspiring. These are colleagues that have dedicated their lives to caring for others and their resolve has no doubt been tested over the past few years as many healthcare workers have left the profession.

What I have also witnessed, and what should not be discounted, is the massive amount of support HCA Healthcare has provided and the investments the organization continues to make to ensure we are able to provide quality care to our patients. The truth is that HCA Healthcare is known as a nursing organization that puts our nurses first and invests heavily into solving the healthcare workforce challenges all hospitals face. 

Like other businesses and healthcare organizations across the country that deal with staffing shortages, we continue our aggressive recruitment and retention efforts to attract and retain healthcare workers who enable us to provide top-notch care for our community. 

·         As a matter of fact, based on the market and operational need for certain roles, we may offer sign-on and referral bonuses. 

·         In 2022, we added 843 registered nurses and 1,689 additional colleagues to our Las Vegas hospital teams.

In addition, we are committed to helping nurses grow and thrive in their careers, just like my own career at HCA Healthcare. Consider the following: 

·         We provide competitive Total Reward packages that include compensation, benefits, and advanced educational support like student loan assistance, tuition assistance and scholarships as well as professional development and career advancement opportunities. We work to ensure our compensation is competitive with other professionals in the region and that our team members feel valued and recognized for their contributions.  

·         We have made significant investments in our people, which is vital to improving patient experience and work-life balance. In 2021, we’re proud that HCA Healthcare invested more than $300 million in additional benefits for nurses across our system. 

·         To protect our colleagues’ roles and benefits, HCA Healthcare implemented an extraordinary pandemic pay program where Sunrise Health System paid colleagues 70% of their wages, outside their usual benefits, even if they were at home. 

·         In the past three years, HCA Healthcare has invested nearly half a billion dollars in nursing education. 

Labor union negotiations are a part of our operations cycle, conducted every three years. During each renewal period, our goal is the same: to secure a fair agreement that continues to support a culture of colleague safety, care excellence and compassion. 

We began our negotiations with labor union SEIU 1107 a few weeks before that Op Ed was published. You can make your own conclusions about the motive behind the letter. 

Our teams are motivated every day to deliver top notch care; recently our acute-care hospitals in Las Vegas garnered several recognitions from the independent Healthgrades organization, including each being recognized as one of America’s 250 Best Hospitals in the country.  

Serving the greater Las Vegas community and surrounding states, Sunrise Health System provides nearly 900,000 patient visits and $59 million in charity, uninsured discounts and uncompensated care annually.  I am proud to say that our hospitals and HCA Healthcare is truly committed to all of our colleagues on the front lines who live our mission each day, committing to the care and improvement of human life.

Shari Chavez, MHA, RN, CENP, serves as chief nursing officer for HCA Healthcare's Far West Division, headquartered in Henderson, Nevada, and serving communities throughout Southern Nevada, Southern California and Northern California. Its eight hospitals and multiple access points provide 1.4 million patient visits annually.


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