Nursing Shortages During Covid-19
The pandemic has affected all of us; countries closed their borders, traveling is kept to a minimum, being in contact with people is limited, lockdowns, and most of all, the ever-increasing number of deaths. While the world struggles to hold on and survive, health care professionals and frontliners are situated in front, serving all of us.
Nurses, in particular, have been called to work, assigned to different places, worked tirelessly and diligently to give their best to patients suffering from Covid-19. But like their patients, the number of nurses dying from Covid and exhaustion has also become an alarming concern to the health care world. It is also among the reasons why there are nursing shortages in hospitals.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nurses represented the most significant number of healthcare workers involved in this pandemic. The year 2020 marks the 200th year since Florence Nightingale founded nursing, and it also became the year when nurses had to face the biggest challenge of their lives as the pandemic spread across the world.
What is Covid-19?
The World Health Organization defined Coronavirus (Covid-19) as an infectious disease where the infected people will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness. Older people and those with medical problems like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and others are more likely to develop serious infections. The transmission mode of Covid-19 is primarily through droplets of saliva or nose discharges of an infected person when they are coughing or sneezing.
To slow down the transmission of Covid-19, protect yourself and others by frequent handwashing, using an alcohol-based rub or sanitizers, and wearing facemasks. Practicing social distancing and getting vaccinated also helps in slowing down the spread of this disease.
9 Reasons for Nursing Shortages During Covid-19
Nursing shortages have always been an issue even before the pandemic set in. However, it’s been given more light during the pandemic. But what are the most common reasons why nurses are short-staffed these days? Here’s what we gathered .
1. Overworked and exhaustion
While nurses’ wages improved over the recent years, there are still nurses who struggle with lower pay. Add the long hours of work and dealing with covid cases, many nurses become burned out with work.
2. Older nurses are about to retire
As the years go by, more and more elderly nurses are retiring. Studies showed that about one-third of the nursing force ages 50 and above would quit in a couple of years.
3. Nurses are quitting their jobs
A study conducted in December 2020 by the NNA (National Nurses Association) showed that heavy workloads, stress, insufficient funds, and burnout are among the concerns of many nurses quitting and leaving their jobs. NNA also surveyed a 20% increase of nurses leaving their jobs because of the pandemic.
4. Nurses considering a career change
Many nurses considered working a different career besides nursing so as not to be involved with Covid patients. Others quit because handling Covid-19 cases has become too much for them.
5. The trauma of the pandemic
Another good reason why there are plenty of nursing shortages in hospitals these days is the trauma that the pandemic caused . In January 2020, ICN (International Council of Nurses) raised their concern about the mass trauma experienced by nurses during the surge of Covid-19.
They also took note of the medium to long-term effects of this trauma on the nursing workforce. The issues and risks combined with the stress and overworked nurses threaten the already vulnerable nursing community.
6. Burned-out nurses
As the pandemic continues, the number of nurses reaching their point of burnout increases as well. Because of this, many nurses are considering the idea of leaving their jobs. If this happens, nurses leaving their jobs because of burnout could potentially damage the health care system in the years to come.
7. Depression and anxiety
Besides being burned out at work and working long hours handling covid patients, many nurses reported experiencing depression and anxiety. Research conducted in the Philippines shows that prolonged distress from the pandemic has developed stress among nurses.
On the other hand, Egypt and Pakistan showed that the pandemic threat has prompted that 95% of their nurses had intentions to leave their present jobs involving Covid-19 Triage Hospitals, and 25% want to leave the profession for good because of the stress, anxiety, and depression that they’re experiencing.
8. A limited supply of new nurses
There are plenty of new nurses graduating each year, and it’s not enough to cover up for the deficit caused by those who will be retiring soon. New nurses are helpful, but not so they can fill in for those who are already experts in the field. In short, they need time and experience to become fully capable of handling difficult situations like Covid patients.
9. Not enough pay
Another reason nurses leave their current jobs is to search for better opportunities. Nurses who have been on the front lines working in nursing homes are not making livable wages. So if they can find another hospital that offers higher incentives and better compensation, they will leave.
How Can Hospitals Avoid a Shortage in Nurses During Pandemic?
There are millions of registered nurses in the United States, yet there are still shortages in the workforce . How can this be resolved?
Dr. Joanne Spetz, Ph.D., a professor at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies and associate director for research at the Healthforce Center at the University of California, San Francisco, suggested these tips to help our nurses get back into work:
- Offer financial incentives. Higher salaries or student loan repayment programs will encourage nurses and future nurses to serve in different areas where the pandemic hit the hardest.
- Create quicker ways of speeding up the license application for nurses living in other states and authorization of immediate license reactivation.
- To expand their scope of practice and oversight rules. The best example of this is to loosen regulations that require physicians to oversee nurse practitioners. Allow nurses to do jobs that do not necessarily require the presence of a physician.
- Create a law or rule that nursing students and those scheduled to graduate soon to help and provide support in hospitals during the pandemic.
- Provide new child care options to nurses, especially pregnant or those who have small children.
- Provide nurses with their personal needs like lodging. This way, they don’t put their families at risk of being exposed to the virus. Supporting their mental and emotional health are also important. Providing them with activities to de-stress can help reduce their anxieties as well.
- Provide nurses with adequate access to personal protective equipment, especially those working in critical areas or handling Covid-19 patients.
How Can Hospitals Overcome Nursing Shortage?
In addition to that, hospitals can also overcome nursing shortages in hospitals by the following:
- Provide a flexible schedule for nurses so they can juggle their work and family life. Flexible schedules allow them to decompress between stressful and emotionally demanding shifts that can drain their energies. A flexible schedule keeps nurses happy and more positive in their working environment.
- A chance to develop their careers through promotion also helps in retaining nurses. Hospitals must help their nurses to obtain the highest education possible. It will encourage nurses to stay within the organization and feel more satisfied with their accomplishments professionally.
- Give your nurses a voice by listening to their concerns. Nurses who can voice their concerns to supervisors and managers are most likely to stay within the company. Implementing their suggestions and ideas also show nurses that the hospital managers are serious about their inputs and that they are also an essential part of the company.
Nurses Will Stay
Nurses are among the best workers globally, and they will stay working as long as they can handle the situation. However, the pandemic changed all that.
It’s not a secret that many of our nurses are exhausted these days, and there’s no certainty as to when this pandemic will end. The only certainty we can give is to protect our nurses by supporting them, providing them with their needs, and hearing them out.
If every nursing company provides their nurses with these, there will surely be no nursing shortages in hospitals. So support your nurses whenever you can; we still need them!