NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, (KNWA/KFTA) — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, hospitals are battling another challenge, staffing. A nursing shortage is forcing some to look for temporary nurses to fill the positions.
Travel nurse staffing agencies have a big job on their hands and they are working to fill thousands of positions for hospitals across the country looking for staff trained and ready to hit the ground running.
AYA Healthcare, VP of Account Management, Sophia Morris says the staffing shortage is being felt across the country. It’s especially concerning in hotspots like Missouri, Florida, and here in Arkansas since there is more of a demand for critical care staff to care for COVID patients.
Pre-pandemic the agency would see about 10 to 15 thousand job requests at a given time but now that has more than doubled.
“A lot of clinicians have decided to leave the bedside they are just flat out tired of patient care and they needed a break and so they are taking a break so we are seeing a decline and hospitals are experiencing vacancies as a result of that burnout,” said Morris.
She adds there is also an increase in demand in specialties that weren’t seen during the pandemic. She says some hospitals are making up those surgical procedures that were put on pause during the health crisis and so for example there is a need for operating room nurses.
Travel nurse, Jamye Perry says helping those in need is her calling. For the next eight weeks she’ll be working in Springfield Missouri, covered in full head-to-toe PPE caring for COVID patients.
Perry has worked the entire pandemic stationed in hospitals all over the country including in Florida, Arizona and Connecticut.
In Springfield, Perry works in an open-air COVID unit. She describes it saying there are no walls, no rooms, but beds separated by portable dividers.
She says it’s tough and as much as you try to separate your emotions seeing so many people sick or die from this virus can take a toll on you.
“I’m seeing really good nurses that are just not handling it real well. You know it’s crunch time, and you either work together or you die, and that where we are at… like on a whole other level,” said Perry.
She says the majority of patients are unvaccinated. Now they do get some vaccinated people but those patients usually don’t end up in the ICU and their symptoms are not as severe.
Perry says we are at another critical point of this pandemic and she’s asking everyone to help by doing their part, by staying safe and reducing the spread of the coronavirus. She adds that this pandemic is far from over.
Hospitals are finding ways to attract workers by offering competitive contracts, increasing pay, and being more flexible with requirements. However, Morris says the demand is much higher than available workers.