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The National Crisis in Nurse Staffing

Everyone talked about the upcoming nurse shortage well before COVID-19 came to our doors. The workforce shortages are creating challenges never faced in recent times. The American Nurses Association (ANA) who represent more than four million nurses, sent a letter last week asking the Department of Health and Human Services to declare an ongoing nursing shortage a national crisis.

COVID-19 initially caused great equipment shortages but that is leveling out as more supplies and equipment becomes available. The human resource shortage is still dire and threatens patient care every day.

Burnout was a problem before COVID-19 and has continued to increase. Nurses are taking early retirement or changing to less stressful jobs. Not enough nurses are graduating each year to cover the gap.

Solutions are complicated, and the nurse shortage is world-wide. Some are recruiting nurses from out of state or out of the country. Top dollar is being offered for short-term nurse positions. These tactics merely pull from one facility or area to offer a short-term solution to another facility or area.

The ANA is in discussion with payment stakeholders to recognize the high value nurses bring to patient care. ANA is recommending nurses be allowed to practice to the highest level of their training. ANA is also addressing barriers that limit the number of nursing students who can be educated each year.

In some places the National Guard, is being activated. Arizona formed a Medical Reserve Corp, also known as Emergency System Advance Registration Volunteer Health Professionals (AZ-ESAR-VHP) where facilities can call for immediate short term paid relief from within the AZ pool signing up for this program.

How will this crisis evolve? No one knows for sure, but predictions are that health care will change to a model we do not recognize today. What can we do to help shape nursing in the future? The answer in part is to stay informed about new healthcare propositions, learn how to contact and educate your representatives about real everyday issues, and make your voice heard through letters, calls, and voting. Nurses represent the largest voting group in the U.S., and we can have a great impact.

Carolyn Bennett

AzPANA Governmental Affairs

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