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Ascension St. Vincent responds to controversial, virtual meeting shared on social media

Posted at 11:00 PM, Aug 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-30 23:35:34-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A former registered nurse at Ascension St. Vincent says she knows why employees are frustrated. Video shared on social media shows a leader with Ascension St. Vincent telling workers they can go somewhere else to work in response to their complaints.

At the end of the nearly 30 second video, Ascension St. Vincent's Central Region President Erica Wehrmeister gives employees an ultimatum, saying this: "I'm sorry, but I think the comments are overboard and if you don't like working here, then go somewhere else."

It was shared by Ashley Shackelford, an RN and former Ascension employee. The video has been seen close to two million times on social media.

Shackelford said she worked for Ascension for two years.

"My inbox is full of people saying thank you for sharing that. Thank you so much for putting awareness on the way we're treated and the way we are talked to," Shackelford said.

She said it was current Ascension employees who sent her that recording, saying it was in response to concerns that were raised during the meeting about multiple issues, including pay.

"I wouldn't say this is how every manager is, but I think that's true for every business you work in," Shackelford said.

In a lengthy statement, Ascension said some of the comments that were made during the town hall meeting were not reflective of the values of Ascension St. Vincent. The statement continues by saying they hear their employees and will continue to be in solidarity with them.

Shackelford believes things would be different if there wasn't a video.

"Had this video not been leaked by myself on Tik-Tok, there never would have been an apology for those who had to endure that conversation," she said.

Healthcare workers, especially nurses, have been pushed to their limits mentally and physically by the pandemic. A survey from the Spring shows that the top priority for many nurses now is making sure they get paid fairly for the amount of work they're doing, putting the health of themselves and their families at risk.

"While we went into healthcare to take care of people because we truly love doing that, we truly love people, we also have bills to pay and we have mental health to take care of," Shackelford explained.

Shackelford said the immense amount of pressure and responsibility nurses continue to face is why the video struck a nerve with so many.

"That's the most offensive thing anyone could have said to us as we are fighting to keep our spark alive in our jobs," she said.

Shackelford explained she hopes to form a union as a way to bring about fairer conditions for those in nursing.

WRTV reached out to Ascension St. Vincent to see if Erica Wehrmeister, the Ascension leader seen in the video, would be willing to talk with us. We also asked if she would be facing any disciplinary action. We have not heard back about those requests.

Read the full statement from Ascension St. Vincent below:

To all of our valued associates, clinicians and caregivers across Ascension St. Vincent:

I want you to hear from me personally regarding recent comments resulting from a video snippet from one of our leaders.

The past year has been challenging for everyone as we strive to care for patients during the various surges in COVID-19 volume. Throughout this time, we have remained focused on two main priorities – taking care of our associates and taking care of our patients. As we have since the beginning of the pandemic, we will continue to focus on the well-being of our associates, nurses and all caregivers who are doing extraordinary work under trying and difficult circumstances right now.

You have my support and that of our entire ministry during this time. I know this has been a difficult time for all of us. Our leaders and staff are tired, yet they continue to work selflessly every day to care for our patients and respond to the needs of our community. Now more than ever, your talents are needed to care for those who need it most – and I could not be more grateful for your commitment to our ministry and to our patients.

As we all respond to the most recent COVID-19 surge and are working around the clock to care for patients, know that we stand beside you in these toughest moments. Our campuses continue to have town hall meetings so that we can hear from you. These meetings are an important way to set time aside for associates to ask questions and express ideas with hospital leadership for continued improvement as we fulfill our Mission to provide compassionate, personalized care.

During last week’s town hall meeting on our 86th Street Campus, some of the comments made by leadership were not reflective of the Values of Ascension. We hear you and will continue to be in solidarity with you. Ascension is more than an organization – we are a ministry of people who have experienced the daily stress of providing front-line care to patients during a global pandemic that has impacted our world for more than 18 months now.

We will continue to find ways to support our caregivers and associates during this time. Resources and respite continue to be available to caregivers who need personal support. Pandemic pay practices continue, in addition to supporting hoteling, dependent care and PTO options.

We are in this together. Thank you for living our Mission every day in caring for each other and our community.

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