National Nurses' Week; local nurses reflect on past year (copy)

In May, Mosaic Life Care honored staff during Nurse Appreciation Week. Shortages of nurses and other medical staff continue to be an issue for hospitals. 

Staffing shortages across health care fields have been a concern for a while, and they continue to be highlighted as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Blair Shock, Clinton County health administrator, said people in public health have had to keep a work-life balance. He remembers how he and his staff worked especially long hours at the beginning of the pandemic and had to try to keep that balance.

"It really increases the risk of them burning out and not coming back to work," he said. "Somebody I talked to earlier this week put it best: A health care provider that reaches the end of their shift is confronted with the reality that their replacement hasn't come into work that day has two choices -- they can stay, take care of their patients, work a double shift and become exhausted or they can leave without a solution to the problem," Shock said.

He said the workload has become so difficult that at times it can be tough caring for people who do not believe in the science that helps protect them against the virus.

"That is a struggle, not only in public health but in any health care setting, simply because finding qualified individuals who are willing to do this job right now is a challenge," Shock said.

Missouri Health Care Association Spokesman Dave Dillon said the staffing shortages and fallout started several years ago, but the pandemic has continued to make things difficult.

In 2020, year-end job postings for RNs reached 35,690, up nearly 1,000 from 2019. The report indicates new nursing students do not equate to a fraction of the open jobs, and many are going into travel nursing for more money.

Dillon said that maintaining adequate staffing has been tough due to burnout, and while there are things hospitals can do, when nurses are fighting every day to save lives, it is tough.

"A big portion of the challenge that we see is that the volumes are higher than is easily managed by organizations, and we can't really control for that because there are hospitals statewide that are dealing with that similar surge," Dillon said.

"In some cases ... they've seen very ugly situations where they're trying to provide care to someone for a disease that that patient doesn't even believe exists," Dillon said.

Dr. Mark Laney, Mosaic Life Care chief executive officer, said the same sentiment is felt by his staff, and they are doing what they can to instill positivity.

"I believe we're going to have some doctors and nurses that walk away from the profession that are going to say, 'This isn't what I thought medicine was going to be,'" Laney said.

The big concern is the continued need for people to be hospitalized and not having the staffing there to provide care.

"If you look at the shape of the population in the United States, we know the baby boomers are moving into their 50s, 60s and 70s," Dillon said. "At a time they're going to need more health care, we're starting to have a crisis of do we have the adequate number of caregivers to provide that care?" 

Clayton Anderson can be reached at clayton.anderson@newspressnow.com. Follow him on twitter: @NPNowAnderson.

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