American hospitals are once again full of coronavirus patients, but they are not the nurses who take care of them. According to experts, the country’s chronic shortage of registered nurses is more serious than ever and is showing signs of deterioration.
Hospitalizations have steadily increased in recent weeks, with an average daily number of hospitals infected with the coronavirus exceeding 39,000, the highest number since the decline of the first Omicron surge in early March. .. The rise is mainly driven by BA.5. This is the best, rapidly spreading submicron variant ever to evade some antibodies from previous infections and vaccines.
However, in the face of growing needs, hospitals across the country say they are still unable to find enough nurses.
In New York, the shortage is “highest in history,” said Matthew Allen, a registered nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and a board member of the New York State Nursing Association. “It’s more historic than ever,” Allen said. As of last week, there were 71 registered nurse and nurse practitioner positions in the Sinai Mountain Hospital Network alone.
Approximately 14% of nurses in Massachusetts acute care hospitals are unfilled, and the shortfall has doubled since 2019. Recent Survey by Massachusetts Health Hospital Association.. The association has found more than 5,000 unemployed nurses in hospitals in the state.
To fill the gap, hospitals are providing financial incentives for new employees, inviting more freelance nurses and, in some cases, reducing services that are not available to sufficient staff.
Martin General Hospital, a 49-bed facility in eastern North Carolina, announced this week that it will temporarily close its intensive care room from August due to difficulty finding nurses.
“The serious shortage level is becoming more difficult in rural areas,” said John Jacobson, chief executive officer of the hospital, in a statement.
At Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford Springs, Connecticut, surgery for inpatients and outpatients was suspended from June 9. According to hospital spokeswoman Mary O, due to lack of staff.
Mary Mayhew, chief executive officer of the Florida Hospital Association, which represents more than 200 hospitals and medical systems in Florida, said the shortage of nurses in Florida was “probably the worst” hospitals experienced in decades. “.
Part of the problem was a large number of nurses who were quitting their regular hospital jobs to make more money as temporary and contract nurses, Mayhew said. “We have a turnover rate of 25 to 30 percent, which is the highest we’ve ever seen in the decades we’ve been tracking that data,” she said.
According to Mayhew, the association’s affiliated hospitals’ reliance on temporary nursing staff was once minimal, but has more than quintupled since 2019.
Brooke Health, a Florida healthcare system, is trying to fill 400 vacant nurses by offering bonuses and other incentives of up to $ 20,000, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Demand for nurses is projected to continue to grow significantly in the United States.McKinsey Consulting Company Forecast in May report The country could face a shortage of up to 450,000 nurses by 2025.
Demand for travel nurses brought from outside the town by recruitment companies to fill hospital gaps for weeks or months reached a record high in 2021 and after a slight setback earlier this year. Since then, it has been steadily increasing again. In May, according to April Hansen, Group President of Aya Healthcare, it is one of the leading providers of travel nurses in the United States.
“It was like a roller coaster,” Hansen said. “We are now at a point where demand is more than double the steady-state demand that existed in the pre-pandemic era.”
She said travel nurses’ wages were 20% higher than they were before the pandemic, and at some point they jumped to about twice the pre-pandemic average.
Aya Healthcare refused to be specific about wages, but another dispatching company, Vivian Health, said in a June report that the national average of travel nurse wages was $ 3,004 a week, the previous year’s average. He said it was up 23 percent from $ 2,450.