Burlington, VT — The Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals ratified a new contract for UVM Medical Center nursing staff.

Back in February, the UVM Medical Center and the nurses union accepted a proposal to increase salaries by 10 percent that month, far in advance of when staff would usually see wage increases at the beginning of the fiscal year. Now that the new contract has been ratified, staff can expect another 10 percent raise over the next 20 months.

New contracts for nursing staff are typically re-negotiated every three years. The negotiation for this new contract comes a year late, after it was decided to extend the previous contract another year due to the pandemic.

“We were absolutely being impacted by the staffing shortages that we have felt, you know, everywhere really, but in healthcare in particular after Covid,” said Peg Gagne, Chief Nursing Officer at the UVM Medical Center. “And so, we wanted to get the wages out to the nurses early.”

Stephen Leffler, the President of the UVM Medical Center noted that at the beginning of the pandemic, they were losing nurses, and had trouble hiring more staff. “In February, we agreed to the wage part of the contract six months early,” said Leffler. “And we agreed on the hospital side to start paying those wages in February.”

The negotiation of the remainder of the contract began in May and the committee met twelve times. They wanted to focus on changes they could make to improve recruitment and retention.

“I think we ended up with a good package that included some additional compensation in the form of differentials and some improvements to the contract that really should set us up well to enhance our ability to recruit and retain nurses,” said Gagne.

In addition to salary increases, the contract also outlines additional compensation in the form of differentials, especially for harder-to-fill shifts.

“We are starting to see a trend that less people are leaving and we’re doing a little better at hiring,” said Leffler. “So it’s too early to know for sure, but we’re encouraged by what we’re seeing and we’re very hopeful.”

Gagne says she is proud of the contract they came up with, and thinks it’ll be a good step forward for staff. Some other benefits laid out in the contract include an improved on-call pay, and support for additional professional development and education.