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To the editor: As we celebrate Nurses Week 2021, which runs from May 6 through May 12, it's a good time to reflect on how nurses are feeling the effect of the pandemic. A recent American Nurses Association survey revealed over half of nurses surveyed felt exhausted, and 43 percent were overwhelmed. Forty-two percent of Vermont nurses felt anxious, higher than the national average. One out of four nurses felt sad, with 23 percent being depressed.

To avert a workforce crisis, Vermont needs to protect and value its nurses. As the largest component of the healthcare workforce, nurses need to be included in decisions about healthcare and on committee assignments.

• Advanced Practice Nurses need to be considered equitably with physicians in decisions and funding concerning the practitioner workforce, to assist both rural and other populations in need of primary care.

• Despite knowledge of the need to increase the workforce, nurse faculty receive far less pay than nurses in acute settings do. Vermont nurse faculty who have masters and doctorates average $62,596 annual salary, and some start in the mid 40s range (Zip Recruiter, 2021). A masters prepared nurse in acute care averages $104,000 and more (Nurse Faculty Guide, 2021). Most nurses cannot afford the pay cut to become faculty. Those that do work beyond their role to maintain expertise, attain doctorates, develop curriculum, advise and more.

• School nurses not only care for students and adults in schools, but follow up with contact tracing, educating families, discussing precautions and vaccines. They have helped keep schools open pandemic long.

• Many acute care, long-term care nurses, and home health nurses have been traumatized by seeing so many die without family when staff is lacking.

Nurses know patients’ needs best, as they spend more time with patients, listening and making decisions about their care. The Green Mountain Board would benefit from the perspective of a front line clinician, preferable a nurse, or minimally a practicing health professional on the Board We encourage the Green Mountain Care Board to advocate for that addition with the Nominating Committee.

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Schools need a nurse available daily for a safe environment. Higher education needs support. Mental health resources need to be available for the traumatized.

ANA-VT is part of a Registered Nurse (RN) well-being grant to encourage nurse mental health. Text RNConnectVT to 60298 to receive uplifting reminders of the hero’s you truly are, ways to unwind, breathe, and take care of yourself. At the national level, ANA has a Nurse Month initiative starting Week 1 with self-care:

We need to make Vermont a desirable state for nurses to remain mentally healthy, and to be safe from harm. Gallop polls continue to find nurses the most ethical honest profession, yet being a nurse is often more dangerous than being a police officer or a prison guard (Dvorak, 2017). We are often asked to sacrifice our well-being to heal others. Nurse well-being needs to be a priority. Thank-you nurses for risking your lives to heal the sick. We honor your sacrifice.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) of Vermont is joined by The Vermont State School Nurses’ Association, and Vermont Nurse Practitioners Association in our sentiments.

President Andrew Kehl, MSN, MPH, APRN, American Nursing Association- Vermont.

President Sophia Hall, MEd, BSN, RN, NCSN, Vermont State School Nurses’ Association

President Michelle Wade, MSN/Ed, APRN, A-GNP-C, ACNPC-AG, VT Nurse Practitioners Association