DSHS Wages

As a Registered Nurse 2 working within DSHS you will earn between $22.87 to $37.48 per hour depending on your years of experience.  The median income for an RN in Seattle is $31 per hour with average hourly wages ranging from $23.88 to $44.70 per hour.  The pay ranges between Tacoma and Seattle are no longer that different.  The source for this data is payscale.com.  The RN Collective Bargaining Agreement determines the RN2 wage levels and they are displayed in the CBA Appendix B.  Also see Nurse Salary Schedule.

Other wage references:

As a new RN2, your starting wages WILL be $1.01 less per hour than if you worked within the private sector on average.  As a twenty six year plus experience level RN2, you would earn $7.22 less per hour than within the private sector based on current data.  You will be working in the one of the most dangerous clinical settings within Washington according to Labor and Industry statistics.  You will pay $99 monthly in L&I co-pays due to the nature of the dangerous setting.


To remain competitive with the private sector that is getting pay bonuses and other perks, DSHS RN’s require a MINIMUM market adjustment in wages of approximately $5.00 per hour to be competitive with the low end of the private sector pay range considering the dangerous environment of work.    

As of this past week (today is 5/24/15), Western State Hospital had 48 RN vacancies.  Physicians currently have 13 vacancies at WSH, making it impossible to admit patients to WSH on many days of the week.  Physicians face the same situation as RN’s, a market adjustment in wages must occur or recruitment and retention will be impossible.  Physicians require an even greater market adjustment than RN’s to remain competitive on the low end of private sector wages.  

RN’s and Physicians constitute a relatively small number (a minority) of all DSHS direct patient care employees.  Without these two classifications, DSHS cannot continue to bill Medicare/Medicaid services with the Federal Government.  Without continued RN and Physician recruitment and retention, WSH alone will lose $64,981,000.00 per year in Federal Medicare/Medicaid funding. 

Western State Hospital is on the verge of losing accreditation now.  We failed the last inspection and were told that CMS would conduct the next and final inspection to determine if decertification would occur.  See blog entry and citations

In order to address the fact that DSHS made no attempt to provide a market adjustment in RN and Physician wages and did not request additional staffing to null out overtime numbers, Western State Hospital is currently operating over eight million dollars in deficit of the budget.  As a result of this hole in staffing, DSHS administration expanded administrative staffing positions (not direct patient care personnel) to cover up the hole.  A staffing schedule manager was hired with supporting personnel.  This was an attempt to reduce the amount of annual leave utilized by direct patient care personnel.  Comp time was removed from direct care employees for half the holidays per year, although this is not advertised when recruiting new personnel.  

The situation is now so bad and current operations have been so hindered that the CEO ordered that no further direct patient care personnel were to have competency review classes and training.  All training has ceased.  This act alone will assure that WSH will not pass standards for federal funding.  Over fifty percent of all wards for breakfasts and dinners no longer have food aide coverage, thus any inspection of bulk food preparation for any ward not covered by a food aide will fail to meet standards of food preparation as these employees are NOT supervised for food preparation and service.

Rather than address the recruitment and retention problem for RN’s and Physicians, DSHS administration has resorted to obtaining Agency RN’s and Physicians for nearly double the hourly wage to allow current operations to continue.  Maxim Healthcare has been contracted to provide Agency RN’s and Agency Physicians (two seperate contracts).  

Below are the RN Agency rates for 2013.  We expect the 2015 rates to be substantially more:  ($33.13 more per hour than an entry level RN2 in Adult Psych and $36.13 more per hour than an entry level nurse in the Forensic Unit.  An Agency RN earns $21.52 per hour more than the highest paid RN2 at WSH).  Remember, the terms below are for 2013 ESH.


Below is the Physician Agency rate:  (Psychiatrists normally earn $81 per hour at WSH.  During this crisis a temporary “ assignment pay” of $11 per hour has been provided for a current hourly rate of $92 per hour.  An agency physician earns $128 more per hour than a permanent physician within DSHS.)


From which budget does this come from?  Why not provide a market adjustment of wages for RN’s and Physicians to recruit and retain for a fraction of the cost of Agency personnel? Who is looking out for the taxpayer?  

Recruitment and retention of RN’s can be maintained for a market adjustment of approximately five dollars per hour.  Recruitment and retention of Physicians can be maintained with a market adjustment also.

The Senate was correct to not move ahead with approval of the negotiated wages as all classifications were treated the same NOT taking into account recruitment and retention issues of specific classifications.  In order to retain $64,981,00.00 in annual Federal funding of Western State Hospital alone, market adjustments for RN’s and Physicians must take place this year.  

Legislators, please review the facts and address this urgent situation.  

© Paul Vilja 2017