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What Happens During a Nurse Strike? The Comprehensive Guide

August 22, 2023

Nurse strikes are increasingly making headlines, raising a popular question: 'What happens during a nurse strike?' U.S. Nursing is a leader in these job actions and runs hospital operations to the highest degree when strikes happen.  

We understand the emotional strength needed during this difficult time and strive for a positive outcome for those on strike and the hospitals themselves. Here's a detailed look at what can happen when nurses go on strike, both in terms of how a hospital prepares and what nurses might do during that time period: 

 Hospital Preparations: 
  1. Assess Staffing Needs: The hospital determines the minimum staffing requirements to maintain essential services. 

  2. Hiring Temporary Staff: Temporary nurses are hired to fill in the gaps. These might be travel nurses or from staffing agencies who are experienced in stepping into such situations. 

  3. Rescheduling Procedures: Non-emergency and elective procedures may be postponed or rescheduled to ensure that there are enough staff for vital services. 

  4. Redistributing Patients: Patients may be transferred to other facilities unaffected by the strike. 

  5. Reassigning Responsibilities: Existing staff, including doctors, nurse practitioners, and other healthcare professionals, may take on additional responsibilities usually handled by the striking nurses. 

  6. Communication with Patients and Families: The hospital will likely inform patients and their families about the strike and what measures are being taken to ensure continuity of care. 

  7. Implementing Contingency Plans: Hospitals often have contingency plans to deal with staffing shortages, which are implemented as needed. 

  8. Negotiation with Unions: Hospital management may negotiate with the nurses' union to reach an agreement and end the strike. 

  9. Legal Considerations: In some jurisdictions, legal actions are taken to prevent or limit the strike, especially if patient safety is at risk. 

 What Nurses Do During the Strike: 
  1. Picketing: Nurses on strike might picket outside the hospital to draw attention to their cause, whether for better wages, improved working conditions, or other issues. 

  2. Public Outreach: Nurses often engage in public relations campaigns to garner support for their cause, including speaking to the media, hosting community meetings, and using social media. 

  3. Providing Essential Care: Depending on the agreement with the hospital and the nature of the strike, some nurses might still provide essential care for patients.  

  4. Engaging in Negotiations: Nurse representatives, often from a union, will be involved in negotiations with the hospital to try to reach a resolution. 

  5. Seeking Temporary Employment: Some nurses might seek temporary employment at other facilities unaffected by the strike. 

  6. Participating in Professional Development: Nurses may use the time to participate in continuing education or professional development opportunities. 

  7. Self-Care and Community Building: Strikes can be stressful and emotionally draining, so nurses might also engage in self-care activities or community-building events with fellow nurses to support one another. 


Nurse strikes are very complex, impacting healthcare systems, hospitals, staff, and patients significantly. U.S. Nursing stands ready, ensuring smooth hospital operations and positive outcomes. 

Join us and become part of a team that thrives on excellence and strength.  


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