(NECN: Kristen Carosa) - "It's a great accomplishment for us - I don't think that it has hit me yet. It's a lot of emotion for me," University Bargaining unit RN Margaret McLoughlin says.
After hours of negotiations, UMass Memorial Medical Center and the Massachusetts Nurses Association reached an agreement late Wednesday night.
The settlement came just hours before a scheduled strike at the hospital's university campus - which would have been one of the largest in state history.
"We didn't want to strike but we want to protect our patients," McLoughlin says.
The three year contract includes limits on the number of patients assigned to nurses - something Mcloughlin says the nurses have been fighting for for more than 19 months.
In a statement UMass Memorial's CEO Eric Dickson says "together with the MNA, we have reached an agreement that meets the objectives of the Medical Center and is also in the best interests of our nurses and most importantly the patients and the families in the communities we serve."
"At the end of the day the patients got what they deserve and we got what we have been fighting for this whole time which is safe staffing levels," McLoughlin says.
McLoughlin says instead of nurses having seven or eight patients at one time - they'll have five, and 80 new full time nurses will also be hired.
She says patients will feel the difference.
"The nurses will be ale to disperse their time more evenly, they won't be rushing around because they have four or five other patients ... They will have more time to actually spend time with their patients ... Teaching you and your family," McLoughlin says.
McLoughlin says nursing is so much more than giving out medications and taking doctor's orders.
"It's sitting with your patient when they are dying. It's talking to the families to make them feel better," she says.
She says with the new contract, nurses can go back to doing what they do best - taking care of each and every patient with the highest level of care.
"It feels good that management, the hospital and the union could all work together for the patients. They are the heart and soul of our industry," she says.