WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - Registered nurses at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis hospital in Wichita have voted to unionize.

By a vote of 378-194, the nurses voted to join National Nurses Organizing Committee, an affiliate of National Nurses United, the nation's largest RN union.

The union will represent more than 650 RNs at the hospital. Next, the nurses will elect a team to represent them in negotiations for a first contract with Ascension.

“Winning our union election is just the beginning,” said Angela de Souza, RN in the post-anesthesia care unit. “We are elated to bargain with management as St. Francis nurses. Safer staffing, workplace violence prevention, and local nurse retention will be at the forefront of our campaign. As union nurses, we will fight for a first contract that will protect both our patients and staff.” 

Ascension Kansas Senior Vice President Kevin Strecker released this statement:

"We are disappointed that the Registered Nurses voted for union representation at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis. We strongly believe we can be most effective working collaboratively without union representation.  We respect the voting process and are committed to ensuring it is followed during the vote certification period."