Nebraska healthcare leaders plead with state Senate to address nursing shortage

Multiple healthcare leaders in Nebraska testified before a legislative panel examining healthcare staff shortages, urging the state to help address the current conditions, ABC affiliate KETV reports.

"CHI Health alone could hire over 750 registered nurses tomorrow, if we could find them," said Tim Plante, MSN, division of nursing vice president at Omaha-based CHI Health, noting that the number is closer to 1,000 when including related job classifications in the nursing profession. 

"I'm here today to sound the alarm," Mr. Plante said. "The healthcare workforce in Nebraska, nursing and nursing in particular is in crisis."

Leaders are urging senators to consider using $80 million of the $1.1 billion of the state's federal American Rescue Plan Act fund. The money would go to five-year retention bonuses for nurses; scholarship and loan forgiveness programs for nurses who stay in state; expanding education programs; and resiliency counseling.

Without the ability to retain current employees and attract new staff, hospital capacity will decrease and units will be forced to close, Mr. Plante said. 

Registered nurses at Omaha-based Nebraska Medicine now must work an extra 12-hour shift each month, said Chief Nursing Officer Suzanne Nuss, PhD, RN.

"Seventy-five percent of our nurses reported they will no longer be in this role in five years, and 79 percent reported they are experiencing symptoms of burnout, compassion fatigue or both," Dr. Nuss said.

In 2021, Nebraska Medicine had 102 nurses leave within the first year of hire, according to Dr. Nuss.

"I am proud that we have not experienced a major patient safety incident as a result of a staffing shortage," Dr. Nuss said. "But I am concerned that it could simply just be a matter of time. Our staff are weary and struggling to see a light at the end of the tunnel." 

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