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Mayor proclaims Nurses Week in Duluth

Minnesota nurses are advocating in favor of the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act, which has drawn criticism from Minnesota hospital leaders.

Duluth mayor holds up proclamation.
Duluth ayor Emily Larson holds up a proclamation recognizing nurses during National Nurses Week at a news conference at the Duluth Labor Temple on Tuesday.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

DULUTH — Mayor Emily Larson proclaimed Nurses Week in the city alongside the national recognition, which began Saturday. Larson read the proclamation among members of the Minnesota Nurses Association at the Duluth Labor Temple on Tuesday.

"Duluth nurses advocate for quality care that is accessible and affordable for patients and communities, including staffing levels adequate to ensure safe patient care, and they risked their lives for Duluth residents throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to show up each day to take care of us," Larson read from the proclamation.

In honor of Nurses Week, Enger Tower will be lit red Friday, the final day of the dedicated week.

Nurse speaks at the podium.
Lisa Hulstrom speaks during the news conference Tuesday.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

National Nurses Week aligns with the birthdate of Florence Nightingale, who is regarded as the founder of modern nursing. Lisa Hulstrom, a registered nurse at St. Luke's, quoted Nightingale's famous line: "I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel."

Mayo Clinic officials said the health system would cancel billions of dollars in investments in Minnesota if the state enacts staffing requirements and a health care cost board

Hulstrom said while she's reflected on several important nurses throughout history during Nurses Week, she's also focused on the future of nursing.


“There are so many influential nurses who have helped shape this profession, but most of us have never heard of them," Hulstrom said. "Despite there being so many nurses, there aren’t a lot of famous nurses. Quite frankly, we’re more comfortable in scrubs at the bedside than standing at podiums.”

Hulstrom is worried about the future of the profession, and said the environment of corporate health care is unsustainable. She and other MNA members, including MNA First Vice President Chris Rubesch, called on the Minnesota Legislature to pass the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act.

“We are not seeking fame or glamour, we just want to have the resources we need to continue to show up,” Hulstrom said.

The Memory Keepers Medical Discovery Team have partnered with area Indigenous communities to increase awareness and caregiving resources for Alzheimer's and related dementias.

The Keeping Nurses at the Bedside act is a bipartisan bill chief authored in the Senate by Sen. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, and in the House by Rep. Sandra Feist, DFL-New Brighton, that would require hospitals to have committees for nurse staffing and workloads, and would allow the committees to make the core staffing plans instead of the hospitals.

Hospitals across Minnesota have expressed concerns about the requirements the bill would instate.

Executives at Mayo Clinic threatened to pull out billions of dollars of investments if the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act and Health Care Affordability Board pass as written. The Minnesota Hospital Association sent a letter to legislators Monday, signed by every leader at nonprofit Minnesota hospitals, warning of the negative impacts the bill would have on patient care.

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"These proposals would negatively impact hospital care including mandating new committees to determine the day-to-day management of our hospitals, handing decision-making authority for care delivery to external lawyers, fixing prices for hospital care, and limiting flexibility for health care partnerships," the letter read. "Together, these proposals will worsen an already unsustainable path for the future of hospitals in our state, endanger access to care, and may spell the beginning of the end of Minnesota’s nonprofit hospital model. The reality is that our hospitals simply do not have sufficient resources."

The hospital executives' letter said the bills would raise care costs and delay care by burdening health systems with administrative work and unnecessary mandates.


Hands hold a sheet of paper.
A nurse holds a sheet of paper with the phone number to the governor's office. Nurses are asking the governor to help uphold the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The letter was signed by the following Northland hospital leaders, plus other executives from across Minnesota:

  • Patti Banks, CEO, Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital;
  • Rick Breuer, CEO and administrator, Community Memorial Hospital;
  • Teresa Debevec, CEO and administrator, Cook Hospital and Care Center;
  • Dr. David Herman, CEO, Essentia Health;
  • Eric Lohn, co-president/CEO, chief financial officer, St. Luke’s;
  • Greg Ruberg, president and CEO, Lake View Hospital;
  • Dr. Nick Van Deelen, co-president/CEO, chief medical officer, St. Luke’s;
  • Ken Westman, CEO, Riverwood Healthcare Center;
  • Kimber Wraalstad, CEO and administrator, North Shore Health.

Theresa Hannu, St. Luke's vice president and chief nursing officer, said in a statement the Nurses at the Bedside Act is not the answer to the staffing shortage. Instead, she said St. Luke's is urging lawmakers to invest in the workforce through retention, recruitment and development strategies.
"The legislation undermines the ability of nursing leaders in the Northland to make real-time adjustments to provide the best care to their patients," Hannu said. "Instead, we can continue working together to support nurses and all staff. Nurses recently played an integral part in helping us create a more robust process where all staff have a voice on how their unit is staffed.

"Numerous safety and contract measures that are always in place also ensure we partner with nurses to assess staffing levels multiple times a day every day, adjust care teams, and match staff’s skillsets and expertise to patient volumes."

Rubesch said the MNA has been made aware of numerous instances at Twin Ports hospitals where the union's new contracts, which were settled at the end of 2022, are not being followed. He said the MNA was submitting lists to the employers and planned to file grievances, but the grievance process is long and not always rewarding.

Nurse speaks at a podium.
Chris Rubesch, first vice president of the Minnesota Nurses Association and registered nurse at Essentia Health, speaks during the news conference.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“Minnesota hospitals are flagrantly disregarding the new contract revisions that they agreed to and unilaterally implementing the type of changes that would be required, that we discussed and agreed to, under provisions of the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act,” Rubesch said.

In a statement, Essentia Health said the hospital is honoring and abiding by the contracts.

"We have worked hand in hand with the MNA and we’re confident in our ability to implement all elements of this complex mutually agreed upon contract in a way that benefits both our patients and our valued nurses," the statement read. "Essentia is proud to have excellent nurses who play an integral role in the expert, compassionate care we provide our patients. Our support for these colleagues is unwavering."

Four medical students attending the University of Minnesota Medical School's Duluth Campus stood with the Minnesota Nurses Association on Tuesday, saying they want to support nurses and stand with them, while also working toward improving corporate health care practices for all members of the health care field.


Student organizers said they want to create relationships of support between nurses and physicians, especially amid staffing crises and health care worker burnout.

“Nurses have historically been at the forefront of a lot of the reforms that have happened in health care, and physicians have often been the ones resisting those reforms, and I think it’s important for us to learn from nurses so that we can actually advocate for public health and for the well-being of the communities that we will serve," said Nehemiah Olson, a medical student.

Medical student Jamey Sharp said he's concerned about the national increases in both nurses and physicians leaving the practice due to burnout and unhappiness, and he and his fellow students want to be part of the change to improve conditions for both staff and patients.

Dakota MacColl said they as students are in a unique position to share their opinions because they aren't yet restricted by contracts, which often don't allow physicians to speak out on topics like this.

Rubesch encouraged his fellow nurses, health care workers and other Minnesotans to call Gov. Tim Walz and demand that nurses' voices be heard, and for the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act to be passed and signed as written.

This story was updated at 3:58 p.m. May 11 to add comments from St. Luke's and Essentia. It was originally posted at 5:24 p.m. May 9.

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Laura Butterbrodt covers health for the Duluth News Tribune. She has a bachelor of arts in journalism from South Dakota State University and has been working as a reporter in Minnesota and South Dakota since 2014.
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