Healthcare workers deserve dignity


As I write this, we are in the middle of one of the most beautiful Vermont summers I can remember. The weather seems to be perfect every weekend, giving those who work weekdays time to enjoy beaches, rivers, trails and creemees.
Hospital workers don’t necessarily break on the weekends, however, and right now, our hospitals are quite busy. Emergency departments are seeing the fallout from recreational mishaps; people who have put off care due to COVID are now receiving it—often requiring higher levels of care—and the ranks of our health care workers are shrinking, leaving the remaining staff with ever-growing caseloads.
In the midst of this rush, as I mentioned in a column a few weeks ago, staff at our hospitals and other care settings are experiencing increasing disrespect and even violence from those in their hospitals. This unacceptable behavior ranges from raised voices to racist slurs to physical harm. Wait times, economic hardships and general stresses have left some folks forgetting how they should treat the people who care for them.
At VAHHS, we feel strongly that this cannot continue. To try to quell such incidents and remind all of us of the need to be kind and respectful, we have launched a public information campaign. You should see it in the days and weeks to come. We hope you will share it with your networks and help us raise awareness of this growing problem. The fact is, we’re all feeling the strain in some way, and it shows up in ways we sometimes cannot anticipate. And it will take all of us to improve the climate both in and out of our hospitals and build a stronger Vermont where everyone can feel safe.
So, what else can you do?
Remember—and remind others—that health care workers are doing their best under stressful conditions. Every industry is feeling the impacts of the workforce crisis. The nurse or food service worker or x-ray technician you are seeing showed up to work to do perhaps the job of more than one person. The people caring for you deserve your appreciation, not your frustration.
And as you’re enjoying all that the Vermont summer has to offer, do your best to be safe.
Decreasing accidental injuries and taking care of yourself and loved ones during the warm
summer months will reduce the cases in our health care settings.
Continue to take COVID-19 seriously. I know it has been a long slog already, but these new variants pack a punch, and we have to stay vigilant. If we’ve learned anything through this experience, it is that vaccines work. If you are due for a booster, make it a priority to get one. Everyone 5 years-old and older is eligible for a booster. And children 6 months and up are also now eligible for the vaccine. Wear a mask in crowded settings if you may be symptomatic. And you know the drill on hand washing by now.
Some of the brightest moments during the darkest times these past several years were when we showed the rest of the country our teamwork and might. We need to dig deep again and work together to reduce stress, be kind, prioritize wellness and keep up the COVID fight.
Thanks for doing your part.Healthcare workers deserve dignity