Nurses at the UVM Medical Center will get a 10% raise starting next pay period. The agreement comes before contract negotiations set for the coming months. Attracting and retaining staff is a challenge for the UVM Medical Center as the pandemic rages on. The UVM Medical Centers says there is a 22% vacancy rate among nurses currently, significantly higher than an 8%-10% vacancy rate on an average year. Roughly 300 traveling nurses help fill those staffing gaps at UVMMC, making more money on average than the 1,975 union nurses at the medical center. In an effort to retain permanent nurses and attract more nurses, UVMMC and the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals agreed on a 10% wage increase starting this next pay period. Nurses will also get an additional 5% increase in October 2022 and October 2023. And all technical employees– excluding imaging techs who have a separate agreement– will receive a $5,000 stabilization bonus. Stephen Leffler, the president and COO of UVMMC, says these pay increases will cost the hospital a little over $5 million for the rest of the fiscal year, with the retention bonuses costing around $10 million over the two years. This translates to around a $3-$5 increase an hour. The Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, says the workforce challenges they face are significant and growing in a state that is aging and largely rural. The rest of the nurses’ contract will be negotiated in the spring but the wage aspect of negotiations is now complete.