ValleyCare Trumbull Memorial Hospital notified the Service Employees International Union District 1199, covering nurses who work at the Hospital, of its intent to transition to a nurse staffing model that uses only registered nurses (RN) and nursing assistants. The Hospital will lay off over 40 licensed practical nurses (LPN).

LPNs have typically received an associate degree while RNs have earned a bachelor’s degree. According to the Ohio Board of Nursing, RNs can have additional duties that LPNs cannot. Based on information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the number of RNs is growing faster than LPNs; Ohio has nearly 100,000 more RNs than LPNs working. LPNs appear to be a dying breed.

The SEIU alleges that the Hospital’s elimination of LPNs from its workforce would be a violation of the current collective bargaining agreement that remains in effect through 2016. Generally, employers retain the right to staff and manage the workforce however, they want through the Management Rights Clause of the union contract. How the Hospital’s decision to join the common trend of eliminating LPNs from its workforce violates the contract, I do not know, but it made for a good sound bite when I heard the union leader talking to the local news about the decision.