NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Healthcare systems across the country are experiencing a shortage of nurses, including facilities in Middle Tennessee.
The Tennessee Nurses Association told News 2 hospitals statewide have very few staff working in specialty areas including gynecology and critical care. Rural areas see a lack of medical-surgical nurses.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a two-fold effect on the problem. Nurses from the “baby boomer” generation, or those toward the end of their career, chose to retire. Others experienced burnout and wanted to move down a new path.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center told News 2 the combination of the pandemic and growth in healthcare systems is causing a demand across their campuses. More than 100 spots need to be filled in five hospitals and clinics.
“We believe that we are in a really good place to do that,” said Marilyn Dundee, Executive Chief Nursing Officer of Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “We are the only magnet designated health systems in our city and that really indicates to people who use us, but it’s a great environment as nursing and we are always excited about that.”
Ascension Saint Thomas also saw the pandemic take a toll on its staff.
“2020 was a very difficult year for healthcare and we are trying to support those nurses to let them know that it’s not the profession that is broken, it’s what happened during 2020,” said Rebecca Bilbrey, Ascension’s Nursing Career Coach. “We are trying to be proactive with that we are not just saying it’s going to be okay, we are providing tools for them.”
This includes taking extra care of new nurses joining their residency programs, boot camps to ease the stress of starting a new job and create better ways to help staff find a work-life balance.
“We want to assure our associates to not work so much that they are leaving here feeling empty,” Bilbrey said. “There’s always a need, but you’re a whole human being and you have a life outside all of our campuses. We want to be respectful of that and that’s where we are trying to send that message that this is just one component of who you are.”
Job opportunities for nurses have also changed.
“Hospitals and clinics are not the only places people can work,” Dundee said. “They can do work remotely, telehealth management with patients which is all important because it creates so many options, but it means that there is more demand and more opportunity than supply.”
Vanderbilt is doing all that they can to minimize nurses from working overtime.
The Tennessee Nurses Association is seeing an upward trend in student enrollment in schools of nursing. While they are encouraged by this news, it will take three to four more years before they’re eligible to enter the workforce.