WASHINGTON, D.C. — From the small towns dotting the Great Plains to the suburbs of big cities, the need for nurses is palpable.
“Our biggest need I would say is nursing,” said Kyle Morgan with Hamilton General Hospital in Hamilton, Texas.
At Beaumont Royal Oak Hospital outside Detroit, they are facing a similar situation.
“What we need right now are folks at the bedside that can roll up their sleeves and help us out on the front line,” said the hospital’s Dr. Paul Bozyk.
Dr. Sherri Wilson is a registered nurse and president-elect of the Virginia Nurses Association.
“It's a very critical period right now,” she said. “With COVID, unfortunately, it just really heightened the nursing shortage and made it just even more critical.”
A recent survey of 6,000 nurses by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses found that 92% said the pandemic had depleted nursing staffing at their hospitals. The survey also found 66% of them considered quitting this year.
“Nurses have been struggling mentally there. They are suffering from post-traumatic stress related to what they're experiencing there in their facilities,” Dr. Wilson said. “So, there are national discussions happening right now to look at both short-term and long-term strategies to help hospitals and other health care entities to recruit nurses.”
That's easier said than done, in part because there's a need for more nursing education and training programs.
"It's compounded by the fact that there is a shortage of nursing instructors to produce nurses coming into the profession,” she said.
Wilson is now working with the education company Stride to try and get more students interested in nursing and other health care professions. They are targeting them as early as middle school, with some of their programs helping high school students earn certain certifications.
“Receiving that industry certification, for example, whether it's a certified nursing assistant, certified medical assistant, phlebotomy, EKG, pharmacy tech -- those are early wins for high school students,” she said. “We recognize we're in a unique opportunity to reimagine career education and contribute to advancing the next generation of nurses and health care professionals."
It’s a long-term effort, though, while in the short-term, some hospitals are implementing emergency staffing measures.
“I will just say that I know that that hospitals at this point are really committed to making sure that patients get the best care,” Wilson said.
It comes as hospitals and health care professionals face the burden of the latest COVID variant.