Dane Co. nurses propose program for health care ‘trauma recovery’ in pandemic

Organized by SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, nurses presented their proposal Thursday night to county board supervisors in the Health and Human Needs committee.
Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 10:30 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - While many health care workers have spoken out about the firsthand struggles of fighting coronavirus, some in Dane County are demanding solutions through a potential new program.

Organized by SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, nurses presented their proposal Thursday night to county board supervisors in the Health and Human Needs (HHN) committee. The group is calling it the “Healthcare Workforce Trauma Recovery and Training Program,” aimed at “stabilizing” the industry, and hopes to see no-cost counseling, continuing education, support groups and efforts to recruit and retain professionals.

SEIU President Pat Raes, who is also a registered nurse at UnityPoint Health - Meriter, said, “We have to take in and move forward and try to make this a better profession that people want to work in again.” Raes said the program’s starting cost should be $30 million.

“It’s $30 million, but there’s an awful lot of people that can be benefited. The federal money was to help the health care workers, and this is definitely a way to help,” Raes said, referring to funding allocated to the county as part of the American Rescue Plan.

The union shared data from a survey it commissioned, reflecting more than 900 Dane Co. health care workers. Results showed that 85 percent of respondents “agreed” with the statement that the pandemic feels “like a warzone or major disaster.”

Nineteen percent of respondents said they knew a health care worker who considered suicide, the survey showed.

“We have people screaming at us down the hallways because they don’t think we’re taking care of their family member correctly,” Raes said, describing the experience of seeing coronavirus patients almost every day.

After the meeting, District 1 Supervisor and HHN Committee Chair Elizabeth Doyle said, “We’ll definitely see exactly what the need is and how we can quantify that a little bit better.”

Doyle explained, because Thursday night was the introduction to the proposal, she needs to have more conversations to decide next steps. The proposal could turn into a resolution, but for now, she said, nothing is assigned to future meeting agendas.

She suggested ideas like building on current programs or partnering with area nonprofits.

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