Coronavirus Cases Push Nation's Limits: Nurse Leaders, Is Your Workforce Prepared?

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As the U.S. surpasses 9 million confirmed Coronavirus cases, Johns Hopkins University data reports one COVID-19 diagnosis made every 0.976 seconds.

As we enter the height of the pandemic amidst flu season simultaneously, it is not a shortage of hospital beds, PPE, or medical treatments that presents the most glaring issue. Hospitals across the U.S. are facing severe burnout, staff shortages, and a lack of experienced caretakers needed for patients in extended critical care settings.The head of the Utah Hospital Association issues an ominous warning in USA Today stating that, "the situation is getting so dire that hospitals might soon need to ration care." Nurse Leaders in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin echo similar warnings, as cases are now rising in 41 states.

“We can keep converting ICU space,” said Jeffrey Pothof, an emergency room doctor in Madison, Wisconsin. “But the constraint will be the staffing … that’s the thing that worries us the most right now.”

USA Today reports: "The worsening outbreak, fueled by Americans' coronavirus fatigue and inconsistent mask wearing and distancing, means hospitals need more doctors, nurses and therapists to fill shifts. Not only do hospitals need extra workers to handle the surge, but they also need to replace shifts when their own staffers are sick or quarantined."Hospitals are turning to travel nurses, physical therapists, and clinicians to fill shifts -- however, contract work is a bandage fix for a long-term problem the U.S healthcare system faces in this pandemic.Banner Health CEO Peter Fine worries hospitals can’t depend on stopgap staffing again.

“The real issue is staff burnout,” Fine said. “It’s a very real phenomenon, and with a countrywide breakout we no longer can count on contracted staff to save us.”

In addition to contract work providing a fix that is only temporary, the crisis rates have risen by 20-30% due to the surge of the pandemic. The influx of cases has skyrocketed the demand for ICU and Med-Surg RNs, in addition to the ongoing need for nurses experienced in post-operation recovery units and medical procedures outside of the COVID-19 scope.

"Pretty much every nurse who wants a job right now in the United States has a job," shares Jeffrey Pothof, Chief Quality officer at UW Health in Madison, "Staffing is the one that keeps me up the most at night."

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November 17, 2020
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