One day, after the largest nurse’s strike in Texas state history, Ascension Seton nurses like Vanessa Villarreal were ready to return to work.

“It was exciting and I haven’t ever been prouder to be a nurse,” Villarreal said. “It was hot out there and hopefully Ascension felt the heat too.”

However, instead of being welcomed back with open arms, health care workers were met by staff and security, informing them they’d have to wait until July 1 to return.

Ascension Seton nurses are striking for safer staffing practices which would include a professional committee to voice concerns and a focus on hiring and retaining good employees. (Spectrum News 1/Dylan Scott)

“I felt horrible. It’s disgusting that Ascension is doing this to us, retaliating against us for our one-day strike,” Villarreal said. “To bring in random nurses that don’t know the policies, where items are and allowing them to take care of our patients.”

In a statement to Spectrum News 1, Ascension Seton stated that they’re contractually required to replace the striking staff members for a four-day period. The release also mentioned the health care system is looking forward to returning to the bargaining table, which is expected to come as soon as Thursday. 

For the hundreds of nurses like Villarreal waiting to return to their true passion, they’re doing what they can in the interim. The union has already filed a ULP, or unfair labor practice, against the provider and will stay on the sidewalk until they can get back to business.

“It takes a lot of courage we’ve been bullied day in and day out because of our union and we just want what’s best for our community,” Villarreal said.

In the eyes of the hundreds of employees, their demands are consistent with what many of their colleagues in the professional have already asked for. A committee to help voice their industry concerns and a focus and commitment to hiring good nurses and keeping them.

“Come to the bargaining table ready to make some moves. Be serious about what we’re here for,” Villarreal said. “Listen to the nurses. We are the heart of the hospital.”