Sanders: ‘We have a nursing crisis in Vermont’

By: Isabel Schonemann; My Champlain Valley

Senator Bernie Sanders met with some of Vermont’s healthcare providers and educators to discuss what can be done about the state’s current healthcare crisis.

Among the topics discussed was that medical schools don’t have the funding to upkeep their nursing educator staff, and they don’t have the resources to take on as many new students as the workforce needs.

Sanders says that is why the healthcare workforce is systematically challenged. The state has 66 locations providing healthcare to a third of Vermonters.

“We have a major nursing crisis in Vermont and the result of that is because we don’t have enough local nurses, people who live in the state of Vermont,” Sanders said. “Hospitals and community health centers have been dependent on traveling nurses.”

Sanders says the University of Vermont Medical Center spends more than $115 million on traveling nurses because there aren’t enough local nurses — despite state medical schools having more than enough applicants.

“The healthcare workforce, the people who have been our heroes for the last two plus years are continuing to face challenges and face burnout from having done this heroic work for so long,” said Carole Johnson, Administrator for Health Resources and Services Administration.

“So what we’re working on right now – which in the long run will save substantial sums of money in healthcare in the state – is to be able to educate young people from Vermont to become nurses,” said Sanders.

A solution discussed in the roundtable is raising nursing educator salaries to draw more nurses to the position, which would allow more nursing students to be trained.

Johnson said HRSA is helping nursing schools and hospitals will work together to train the next generation of nurses.

“Vermont has been an incredible partner with HRSA in thinking about how to leverage federal resources to improve healthcare delivery in the state,” she said.

Meanwhile, Sanders says he is working with legislators to put more money into the budget for nursing education.