Nursing shortage gets worse as COVID-19 subvariant spreads

As hospitals grapple with a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations driven largely by the BA.5 omicron subvariant, they also continue to struggle with a worsening chronic nursing shortage, The New York Times reported July 15.

Challenges recruiting and retaining nurses have been ongoing during the pandemic. Now into the third year of the virus, the chronic nursing shortage is heightened in areas across the U.S., experts told the newspaper.

The shortage comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen 19 percent nationwide over the past 14 days, with a daily average of 39,589 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of July 15, according to HHS data collected by The New York Times. The daily case average grew to 132,928 as of July 15. 

Amid the increases, workforce challenges persist, with hospitals continuing to try to fill nursing vacancies.

Matthew Allen, a registered nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and a New York State Nursing Association board member, told The New York Times the shortage is at an "all-time high" in New York State, and Mary Mayhew, chief executive of the Florida Hospital Association, told the newspaper Florida's shortage of nurses is "probably the worst" that hospitals have reported in decades.

Hospitals and health systems are making various efforts to combat the nursing shortage and attract and retain workers.

Take Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Broward Health, for example, which is offering sign-on bonuses of up to $20,000 and a pension plan to nurses as it seeks to fill 400 registered nurse vacancies. In Slidell, La., Sterling Surgical Hospital is covering employees' gas costs to come to work for the rest of the year. To address staffing shortages, some hospitals have also had to adjust services. That includes Williamston, N.C.-based Martin General Hospital, which said it would close its intensive care unit temporarily on Aug. 1.

To read the full New York Times report, click here

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