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VCU nurses start petition, call for 'sick-out' to demand higher pay

Posted at 12:57 PM, Oct 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-27 12:57:52-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Nurses at VCU Health are expressing their frustration and calling for a pay increase after other Virginia hospitals increase nurse compensation.

A flyer circulating around the hospital called for nurses to call out sick Monday in protest of a decrease in worker's annual bonuses and merit-based raises.

"We're tired," explained VCU nurse, Jacob Short. "I've heard of a few friends participating. You know, something's got to give. They've got to get people's attention in some way."

For the past year-and-a-half, Short has put on his scrubs to work the night shift in VCU's surgery and trauma units. He said he's not participating in the sick-out, but just last week, he learned his annual raise would be less than he expected.

"A little bit shocked," Short noted. "Here's just another thing, like just another thing that's thrown at us that we're told, you know, essentially, deal with it.”

A Change.org petition started two days ago by a group of VCU nurses has already gathered more than 3,600 signatures.

It noted VCU's merit bonuses have decreased from last year, and the petition also stated while full-time employees received a $725 appreciation bonus in 2020, this year’s suggested amount is $400.

"You can only get like a 3% raise for exceptional or exceed expectations, something like that, which they don't typically give out," said Short. "Because, you know, it's reserved for a handful of staff that really meet those qualifications."

VCU Health sent CBS 6 a statement Monday morning reading, "There were no issues this morning. VCU Health staff are providing great care to our patients as they do every day. They are truly health care heroes."

The statement went on to say, "VCU Health recently announced a $38 million investment in our team members, including an increase in the minimum wage from $12 to $15 an hour, performance merit increases and appreciation bonuses. And unlike other health systems, we considered all of our more than 13,000 team members as essential during the pandemic and did not implement layoffs or furloughs."

But Short and some of his colleagues said the pay is less than other healthcare systems in the area, and they don’t feel appreciated.

"We just need change," he explained. "We would like answers above anything else. Don't ask for feedback from us, and then shut us down when you're getting the feedback that you don't want to hear."

The three-year RN and his wife are expecting their first child in December. While Short loves his job, he said he has to think about his future.

“I saw a posting for my position that I'm doing now at another institution with a $25,000 sign on bonus," he said.

The Change.org petition also asks VCU Health to give staff a base 5% cost of living increase, and they’re asking for a response to the petition no later than Nov. 15.