Nurses, health care professionals rally in Burlington for staffing increases and better pay

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Nurses and health care professionals in Vermont and New York gathered Wednesday outside the offices of UVM Health Network to call for higher wages and an increase in staff.

“Right now the issue is that there is not enough staff to staff the beds at the hospital, ” Benton Taylor, a registered nurse at UVM Medical Center, said. “We have an extremely high turnover rate. People are leaving health care because they are burnt out.”  

Another issue is wages. 

“In Vermont there are colleges around, we get a lot of new grad nurses,” Taylor said. “But they stay for a year, or two years and they leave to go somewhere where they can do the same job and make twice as much money.”

Taylor said when there aren’t enough staff, everyone is affected. 

“Things become delayed, patients don’t get tests done on time,” Taylor said. “They don’t get medication on time, they don’t get cleaned up from going to the bathroom on time.” 

Taylor gets at least three phone calls a day from the hospital’s staffing office asking him to come in for double pay. “You can only do so much over time and still do your job effectively,” Taylor said. 

Holly Benoit, the inpatient pharmacist at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital, said the same issues are happening in Plattsburgh. 

“I communicate with nurses on the floor constantly. It’s very clear to me that there aren’t enough staff to safely care for our patients,” Benoit said. 

Benoit shared a recent story that she experienced at the hospital. 

“We mixed some custom antibiotics for a patient with a bad infection in the ER, and it is the kind of medication that should be given right away,” Benoit said. “But the patient did not receive these antibiotics for almost three hours because there weren’t enough nurses to give the antibiotics right away.” 

Taylor said at some point, everyone will have to go to a hospital, and when they do, they’ll need a nurse’s care.  

“People give birth, people die, people become ill,” Taylor said. “If there are no people there to take care of them, I don’t want to see what that is like.”

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