UWHA Members joined a 15-minute Unity Break across four hospitals and three clinics (in both Washington and Idaho) on Wednesday, September 25th. This speech was shared at a majority of sites and written by UWHA President, Dr. Kellie Satterfield.

Hello everyone, thank you for coming today. We are the UW Housestaff Association, comprised of over 1300 medical and dental resident and fellow physician trainees here at UW and WE ARE YOUR DOCTORS.

Today residents, fellows and other supporting our cause, are meeting at all UW campuses across Seattle. We are here, to say in a unified voice, that UW is not giving us the support we need to care for our patients. 

Over the course of several years, UW’s mistreatment of doctors in training has led us to unionize, and again today, we have reached a breaking point. Our working conditions have taken a toll on our wellness and ultimately a toll on our ability to care for our community.

We are the people caring for you in the emergency room and at clinics across Seattle, we are performing your surgeries, reading your X-rays, and curing your illnesses. We knew medical training wouldn’t be easy, but residency at UW is particularly hard.

Compared to the top 100 institutions, UW residents are amongst the worst paid residents in the country, and now UW is proposing cuts to our compensation. This is unacceptable. WE ARE YOUR DOCTORS.

UW doesn’t guarantee us a safe ride home after working over 30 hours straight work, when it’s unsafe to drive. Research has shown that one third of us will end up falling asleep while driving and up to half of us crash or nearly crash our cars during residency. (brief pause) This isn’t safe for our doctors. This isn’t safe for our community. 

We have no protected breaks, and little-to-no say in our schedules or when we take vacation. Rates of physician depression, suicide and burnout are at an all time high. When residents are unwell, it hurts patient care. This hurts our community, and WE ARE YOUR DOCTORS.

UW policies mean we lose top medical applicants. Our benefits and wages do not compete with other programs across the nation. Due to our poor compensation, UW is also losing out on diversity amongst its doctors. Our community deserves the best- our community deserves doctors as diverse as they are. We believe our patients deserve better than this.

WE ARE YOUR DOCTORS and we are struggling to pay our bills. The average medical graduate gets their diploma with $200,000 in student dept, not counting accrued interest. We can’t afford our rent in the city, yet, we are forced to live in some of the most expensive neighborhoods in order to get to patient emergencies in the middle of the night. How does that work when many of us qualify for low income housing?

WE ARE YOUR DOCTORS and we are discouraged from having children in residency– and those who do wait years to get their children into daycare. AND even working the equivalent of 2 full time jobs, we still can’t afford the childcare available here. What about when we get called in, in the middle of the night? Who watches our children then?

WE ARE YOUR DOCTORS and we can’t afford our own healthcare- not even at our own institution. Many residents are going into credit card debt just to put food on the table for their families. How are we supposed to care for our patients when we can’t even care for ourselves?

WE ARE YOUR DOCTORS and we have met with UW in good faith to address these concerns – even after they have delayed getting to the bargaining table for 7 months and forced us to leave patient care to negotiate. We have only asked that our wages be on par with peer institutions nationwide. In response, UW proposed cutting our compensation even further. UW isn’t listening.

WE ARE YOUR DOCTORS and we are fighting for our wellness, for our families, and for our patients. ALL OF THESE conditions negatively impact our ability to do our jobs and provide the best care for you and our community. UW is filled with hardworking and passionate people: from doctors and nurses to custodial staff, physical therapists, and facilities engineers. Like all workers in Seattle, we deserve to be valued and respected. 

Our unity break today is meant to show UW they must take care of their employees if they want to provide the highest level of care to the people of Seattle and the greater northwest. We ask the University of Washington to do the right thing by its patients. In this case, it means taking care of its own doctors. 

Thank you so much to everyone for being here today. We will now have a resident testimony.”

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