Nursing staff crisis continues to stress hospital resources

As COVID wages on, there has been a shortage in nurses as the number of patients continues to increase. Photo by Baylor Photography

By Camille Cox | Staff Writer

In the last few months, hospitals across Texas have seen an influx of COVID-19 patients and a shortage of nurses.

The Texas Nursing Workforce Shortage Coalition cites that the shortage is rooted in multiple causes, including the demand for full-time nurses being too high for nursing schools to meet.

“Without major increases in funding for nurse education, this gap widens,” Texas Nursing Workforce Shortage Coalition said on its website.

In response to the urgent need for more nurses to combat COVID-19, the state has alerted hospitals that they will receive “additional nurses and respiratory therapists,” according to Megan Snipes, marketing and public relations consultant at Baylor Scott and White Medical Center — Hillcrest.

Snipes said in an email that the shortage is a result of a recent surge in hospitalizations across the state.

“Healthcare systems are sourcing staff using multiple resources, increasing shifts, paying critical staffing bonuses and redeploying non-nursing staff to assist with non-clinical tasks,” Snipes said.

The University of St. Augustine concluded that “1.2 million new registered nurses (RNs) will be needed by 2030 to address the current shortage.”

According to U.S. data, Texas has fewer than 10 nurses per 1000 people, ranking only behind California as the most severe shortage in the country. The pandemic caused many nurses to retire early, leaving hospitals to resort to paying bonuses so that nurses do not take vacation days.

Basalt, Colo., senior Jenna Curnow — a student at the Louise Herrington School of Nursing in Dallas — is seeing firsthand what the nursing shortage looks like in hospitals. Curnow is completing her OB and Leadership Unit and is finishing her clinical hours at Parkland Hospital.

“I’m at the hospital for a 12-hour shift every Monday, and I have been in the OR watching C-sections and watching live births right now,” Curnow said.

Curnow said the shortage is forcing nurses to work longer hours and cover more shifts to keep up with the influx of patients.

“In my labor and delivery unit, which was two weeks ago, the nurse I was with couldn’t even take a lunch break because they were so understaffed,” Curnow said. “She was having to eat a granola bar in between breaks.”

While the shortage continues to plague hospitals across the state, relief seems to be coming as more help provided by the state arrives at hospitals.

“These providers have begun to arrive at our facilities,” Snipes said. “We are very thankful for the additional medical personnel.”