Letters to the Editor

Healthy nurses mean healthy nation

To coincide with a national celebration of the profession of nursing May 8-12, the American Nurses Association has launched a campaign called “Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation.” The campaign encourages nurses to engage in self-care as a means to optimize their ability to provide care to their patients.

Locally, there are nearly 1,800 nurses and advanced practice nurses providing care at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Studies have demonstrated that the health of nurses is below the average for Americans on many key indicators. Because of their crucial role in our health care system, nurses must focus on their wellbeing. I am proud that at the University of Vermont Medical Center, staff wellbeing is a priority focus in our organizational strategic plan. Measuring staff wellness and implementing strategies such as a “renewal room” to support staff health and wellbeing is part of the work we do every day.

By actively modeling healthy lifestyle choices — choosing nutritious foods and an active lifestyle, managing stress, living tobacco-free, getting preventive immunizations and screenings, and choosing protective measures such as wearing sunscreen and bicycle helmets — nurses can set an important example on how to be healthy.

I am deeply honored to serve with the dedicated and exemplary nursing staff and nurse faculty of UVM Medical Center and the UVM College of Nursing and Health Sciences, and it is part of my responsibility to ensure that my team supports each other as they ensure their own wellbeing as well as that of their patients.

During this time of national recognition, remember to give thanks to the nurses who have touched your lives. It is a simple act that tells them they are appreciated for what they do – and that’s part of a strong wellbeing program.

Kate FitzPatrick
Chief Nursing Officer
UVM Medical Center

Recruit foreign exchange students to combat declining enrollment

While the Vermont Legislature has been grappling with Vermont’s shrinking student enrollment with heavy-handed mandates like Act 46, which in some school districts will do more harm than good, the Campaign for Vermont has put a more creative and more promising proposal on the table. Issued March 23 and entitled “Re-Energizing Vermont’s Public Education System: Making Vermont an Education Destination,” the proposal calls for Vermont to become more active in recruiting international exchange students.

Vermont currently has one of the best secondary public school systems in the country. Our public high schools, however, are challenged by high costs and excess capacity. In an increasingly global economy, our students are also short-changed by a lack of ethnic and cultural diversity at many schools. On the other hand, the emerging global economy has brought new wealth and prosperity to countries that were once mired in poverty. Many families in these increasingly affluent countries appreciate the importance of education and understand that schools in Vermont have a great deal to offer their children.

The Campaign for Vermont proposal calls for Vermont to initiate a program to reach out to families around the world and bring more tuition students from foreign countries to Vermont. It is an idea that deserves serious attention. In order to work, the proposal requires careful screening of both students and host families. Exchange students need to be screened for maturity and to assure that they have the language skills needed to succeed. Host families or boarding homes need to be able to adapt to the tastes and values of a different culture.

But if Vermont secondary schools worked together with the Vermont Agency of Education, the prospects for enhancing the educational quality of our schools and reducing our property tax burden are significant. The General Assembly, Vermont’s superintendents and the Vermont School Boards Association should all give serious attention to this proposal and consider a collective effort to create a statewide Vermont public school foreign student initiative.

Dave Kelley

It’s time to outlaw animal sexual abuse in Vermont

The Vermont Humane Federation strongly supports legislation, H.325, to make the sexual abuse of animals (bestiality) illegal in Vermont and calls upon the Vermont General Assembly to enact legislation banning bestiality before the end of the legislative session.

As Vermont’s leaders in promoting the humane treatment of animals, we find it inexcusable that those who sexually abuse animals could escape justice due to a loophole in the animal cruelty statute.

Astoundingly, Vermont is one of only eight states where bestiality is not an animal cruelty violation. As a result, prosecutions can only occur in cases where physical injury to the animal can be proven. In many cases, such as those initiated by eyewitness complaints or videos and images found during the investigation of other crimes, the lack of a clear prohibition makes prosecution nearly impossible. Last year, New Hampshire passed a ban on bestiality, leaving Vermont as the only state north of West Virginia where this type of abuse is legal.

Animal sexual abuse is both cruel towards animals and a serious issue linked to other violent crimes. Case studies have shown that bestiality has strong ties to child sexual abuse and is often an indicator of future sexual abuse of humans. The FBI has found high rates of sexual assault of animals in the backgrounds of serial sexual homicide predators.

Weak laws make our state more vulnerable to this activity, and the pervasiveness of this problem is only likely to increase the longer Vermont remains the only state in the Northeast without a ban.

Introduced by Rep. Curt McCormack, H.325 would ensure the sexual exploitation of animals can be charged as an animal cruelty offense and properly prosecuted.

Jessica Danyow
President, Vermont Humane Federation