Avoiding a professional exodus
It’s too early yet to have reliable national data on how many nurses have already left their jobs because of COVID-19, but it is clear that there are too few nurses of all kinds. The American Nurses Association sent ato the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services urging the agency to declare the nursing shortage a crisis and to take immediate steps to find solutions.
The nursing shortage predates the pandemic, and COVID-19 has brought a simmering problem to the boil. Nurses are calling on the public and the health care system for help. From inside the industry, the needs are pretty much what they were before the pandemic. Dr. Bettencourt and Ms. Wathen point to the need for supportive leadership, healthy work environments, sufficient staffing to meet patients’ needs, and a voice in decisions, such as decisions about staffing, that affect nurses and their patients. Nurses want to be heard and appreciated. “It’s not that these are new things,” said Dr. Bettencourt. “We just need them even more now because we’re stressed even more than we were before.”
Critical care nurses have a different request of the public. They’re asking – pleading, actually – with the public to get vaccinated, wear masks in public, practice social distancing, and bring this pandemic to an end.
“COVID kills, and it’s a really difficult, tragic, and lonely death,” said Ms. Wathen. “We’ve witnessed hundreds of thousands of those deaths. But now we have a way to stop it. If many more people get vaccinated, we can stop this pandemic. And hopefully that will stop this current trend of nurses leaving.”
A version of this article first appeared on.