The nurse shortage caveat

Massachusetts has more licensed nurses now, in nearly every category, than before the pandemic. So why do many hospitals have job vacancies?

The issue comes down not to an actual shortage of nurses. "It's a shortage of nurses willing to work under these conditions," Katie Murphy, RN, president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, told WBUR.

The Boston-based public radio station spoke with nurses who left jobs with hospitals, with factors for their separation ranging from the hospitals' relentless pace, emotional exhaustion and feelings of defeat, limited child care options forcing them from full-time work at the bedside, layoffs, and terminations over vaccine mandates. 

One emergency medicine nurse with 25 years of experience left the field in November 2021. She recounted a shift in which she had eight patients and was unable to care for and clean a soiled, older woman on a gurney in the hallway for hours. She now roasts coffee beans and hopes "to open a cafe where she can look people in the eye, ask about their lives and offer comfort, things she loved in earlier years as a nurse," according to WBUR. 

The number of licensed registered nurses in Massachusetts is up 24 percent from June 2019, and the number of certified nurse practitioners is up 25 percent in the same time frame. The state doesn't track how many of its licensed nurses are currently employed. 

Read or listen to WBUR's report in full here.

 

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