Retreat nurse: staff is at the breaking point

BRATTLEBORO — I have been a registered nurse at the Brattleboro Retreat for nine years, and I'm here to let the community know what is happening there.

In a time of crisis, the hospital's administration has consistently chosen to make life for the direct-patient-care staff more difficult.

According to the administration, a staffing crisis at the Retreat has led to a financial crisis. Staff have been leaving, and hiring has been challenging, creating a shortage of nurses, mental-health workers, social workers, and doctors.

The Retreat has been severely understaffed for well over a year. I agree, it is truly a crisis.

During a time of crisis, administration should work harder for staff that have remained, and consequently attract new staff. This is a time to ask us what we need, listen intently, and then try to provide it.

Instead, the administration has become increasingly abusive. In spite of this, we are still coming to work.

The patients at the Retreat are part of our community, locally and throughout New England. They are friends, neighbors, and family members. We, the staff at the Retreat, work there because we care about the patients, and we love the work we do.

We will be picketing on June 27 on the Brattleboro Common, from 2 to 5 p.m.. This is not a strike. We are still working. We are speaking publicly and asking for help.

On Thursday, June 14, we received an email informing us that our work schedules would be changed. All of us. All nurses. All mental-health workers.

Schedules we have worked with our managers to craft so that we can do our jobs as well as take care of our children, elderly parents, or disabled family members.

Schedules coordinated carefully with spouses and family so that the things we need to attend to can be taken care of.

Schedules so that we can make it to our second jobs, doctor's appointments, and regular physical therapy appointments.

We were told these would all be changed “to be fair and equitable” and that we would receive our new schedules the next day and that they would take effect on July 15.

On that day, we had had enough.

We had already been struggling as the administration has been creating new rules and pushing the boundaries of existing agreements between them and the union. Every week, the administration issues some new decree about how the floor staff are to behave or organize their time.

The administration has changed what qualifies as sick time. There has been a surge in mandating that staff stay beyond scheduled work hours, and the administration has changed that procedure.

The almost constant stream of changes in the past year has been taxing, draining, overwhelming. Coping with these changes takes away from our ability to do our best for our patients.

We love our jobs; we love our patients. Please support us. If you see us around town with our ID badges on, say hi and ask us questions. Call the administration at the Retreat; tell them what you think.

We want to be able to stay at our jobs and care for your family members, your friends, your community members.

We deserve respect from the administration for the work we do on behalf of our patients and our community.

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