Nursing Shortages in Hospitals During Covid-19

Nursing Shortages in Hospitals During Covid-19

Nursing shortages in hospitals have been an issue for decades, but this problem became a nightmare when the pandemic broke out. Many healthcare facilities now face the fact that they are short-staffed.

But why is there a nursing shortage? Is there something we can do?


The Impact of the Pandemic

The pandemic has affected all of us. Many countries closed their borders, and traveling was kept to a minimum. Being in contact with people is limited, countries announcing lockdowns, and most of all, the ever-increasing number of deaths.

While the world struggles to hold on and survive, healthcare professionals and front liners are situated in front, serving all of us. Nurses, in particular, have been called to work, assigned to different places, and 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 healthcare world. It is also among the reasons why there are nursing shortages in hospitals. 


Understanding 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. [1]

To slow down the transmission of Covid-19, protect yourself and others by frequent handwashing, using an alcohol-based rub or sanitizer, 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 have improved over recent years, there are still nurses who struggle with lower pay. Add the long hours of work and dealing with covid cases, and 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 aged 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 nurses are exhausted. Many are overworked, underpaid, and burned out.

As a result of this, many nurses are quitting and leaving their jobs. NNA also surveyed a 20% increase of nurses leaving their jobs because of the pandemic. [2]


4. Nurses considering a career change

With the increasing number of covid patients, many nurses are considering quitting their jobs. Others abandoned the assignment because handling Covid-19 cases have 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.

This kind of trauma, combined with too much work and stress, makes nurses even more vulnerable. 


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 healthcare system in the years to come. 


7. Depression and anxiety

Another factor that makes nurses quit their jobs is burnout. Working long hours and caring for sick and dying covid patients drove nurses to depression [3].

Research conducted in the Philippines showed that nurses exposed to prolonged distress from the pandemic have resulted in depressive states and anxiousness.

Meanwhile, Egypt and Pakistan showed that the pandemic threat had prompted 95% of their nurses 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 they’re experiencing. 


8. A limited supply of new nurses

Although plenty of new nurses are graduating each year, it is still not enough to cover up the deficit caused by those 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.


Nursing Shortages in Hospitals: How Can We Help?

There are millions of registered nurses in the United States, yet there are still shortages in the workforce. How can we help solve this? 

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 help and support hospitals during the pandemic. 
  • Provide new childcare options to nurses, especially pregnant or those who have small children. 
  • Provide nurses with lodging options so they avoid exposing their families to the virus. 
  • Supporting their mental and emotional health are also important. Providing 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. 

In addition to that, these three tips on how to avoid nursing shortages in hospitals help too:

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. It also 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 encourages 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. Valuing their opinions and ideas will show nurses that the hospital managers are serious about their input. And that they are also an essential part of the company.

Problems in Nursing Shortages in Hospitals Can Be Solve

Nurses are among the best workers in the world. They will stay working as long as they can handle the situation. But the pandemic changed all that. Worse, there’s no certainty that this pandemic will be over soon.
The only hope we can give is to protect nurses by supporting them, sending help, and hearing them out.
Healthcare facilities should make nurses their priority. Once they value nurses better, nursing shortages in hospitals will not be a problem. So support your nurses whenever you can; we still need them!

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