Nursing shortages post pandemic one predicts 'It's going to be a

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. — The panic has started again for nurses. After the first wave of the pandemic, there was a second, and now, 17 months after COVID-19 came to the United States, some nurses are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder as patients begin to fill their emergency rooms and hospital beds with the delta variant.“Knowing that it’s coming back this quickly and this harshly is like going through it all over again,” said Christina Hansen, a 51-year-old nurse at WellSpan Health in York, Pennsylvania. She works in a cardiac care unit that was converted to take care of coronavirus patients. Last year’s first wave was “terrifying.”“It was absolutely exhausting coming in day after day, trying to save these extremely sick patients,” she said. The virus has taken its toll on families, as 615,000 deaths are attributed to COVID-19 on death certificates, according to the CDC. But there’s a reckoning among hospital workers, too. To Bill Engle, a nurse of 25 years, the COVID-19 health care catastrophe gave birth to another crisis: nursing shortages.“It takes a village to take care of a patient, right? And the hospital’s a village, and there’s less and less people in the village,” said Engle, now working at St. Mary Medical Center in Middletown, Pennsylvania, and co-president of the nurses’ union there. Hiring and keeping staff at St. Mary is challenging, he said.“We’re giving safe care, don’t get me wrong. But the margin for error is getting slimmer and slimmer, and nurses are getting more burnt out,” he said. Engle will join other nurses in Harrisburg on Sept. 28 to lobby state lawmakers for minimum staffing standards at Pennsylvania’s hospitals. A shortage of nurses had been predicted prior to the pandemic as baby boomers retire from the profession, but as the virus filled beds with critically ill patients, Engle watched colleagues quit their bedside jobs in hospitals to pursue other, more lucrative or less stressful jobs.“You wait till this thing is done in the South,” Engle said of the recent spikes in virus cases in southern states. “Those nurses are going through what we went through, and they’re just beside themselves. It’s going to be a national crisis.”Nikki Learn immersed herself in that crisis. She had been a traveling nurse, one of those more lucrative jobs for professionals willing to move to health care facilities with immediately critical needs. The pay is high for those jobs — $50,000 for three months, according to Engle — but through the pandemic, Learn was in Level 1 trauma centers, rated as the most comprehensive care facilities in the country. It was intense work, and she burned out.“You don’t see any end to it, and it gets frustrating to go into work every day to experience a new protocol, a new way of doing things,” she said. “Staffing gets smaller, and the (nursing) shortage gets worse. You’re expected to do more with the same number of people.

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