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COVID-19 cases spike amid the ongoing nurse shortage

Louisiana reported over 5,300 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday
Nurses in a hospital.
Nurses in a hospital.(nurses)
Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 7:49 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2021 at 5:31 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - COVID-19 cases are soaring in Louisiana amid a chronic shortage of nurses.

Deborah Skevington, PH.D., RN., is interim Executive Dean of Charity School of Nursing at Delgado Community College.

“It’s an ongoing problem and I think part of the worry now might be possibly the burnout with COVID-19,” said Skevington.

Ruby Brewer is Chief Nursing and Quality Officer at East Jefferson Hospital in Metairie.

“When patients are very, very ill and they need that 24 hours a day intensive care nurses become the lifeblood of providing that care,” said Brewer.

Skevington and Brewer said nurses are critical to health care.

“I think we play the most important part. Nurses are with patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, holidays, weekends,” Skevington said.

“Nurses are the heart and soul of healthcare,” said Brewer.

Paul Salles, President, and CEO of the Louisiana Hospital Association issued the following statement:

“Louisiana clearly needs to train more nurses and allied health professionals to keep ahead of patients’ growing need for care. Each year, Louisiana has more than 13,000 nursing and allied health job openings. Before the pandemic, Louisiana’s nursing shortage was projected to quadruple by 2025. We thank Louisiana lawmakers for passing laws during the recent legislative session to fund healthcare workforce training programs under the HERO Fund created by Sen. Bob Hensgens (ACT 109) and the M.J. Foster Promise Program created by Senate President Page Cortez (ACT 457).

Louisiana’s nursing schools are forced to turn away 1,400 highly-qualified nursing school applicants every year because of a shortage of resources. We hope this funding will expand nursing school capacity so these students can begin their nursing careers.

We all remember times during the pandemic when repeated surges in COVID hospitalizations stretched our healthcare workforce thin. Fortunately, these surges are entirely avoidable with the safe and effective COVID vaccines that remain available at no cost to Louisiana residents ages 12 years and older. Anyone with vaccine-related questions should speak with a trusted physician or call Louisiana’s vaccine hotline at 855-453-0774.”

Around the country, as the pandemic persists some nurses and other health care professionals discuss feeling burned out.

“Burnout is a real thing,” said Brewer. “Yes, there have been nurses who’ve left, left the profession.”

Skevington also knows of nurses who are leaving the profession, at least for now.

“I’m hearing stories from friends that some of them may be leaving health care just because of their burnout, it might be for a short period of time but there’s going to be that interruption when they’re not there,” she said.

And as the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus spreads quickly, COVID-19 case numbers are going up rapidly locally and around the country.

“We’re really not out of the pandemic yet, the numbers are going back up,” said Brewer.

Recently, National Nurses United, a union representing RNs sent a letter to the CDC director urging the federal agency to issue revised mask guidance. The union wrote, “Reinstate the recommendation for everyone to wear masks when in public or in physical proximity to others outside their own household.”

“Take some stress off the health care system. I understand why they’re asking for that,” said Brewer.

That aside, Brewer said people who feel they need hospital care should not hesitate to get it.

“I would never want people to think that we’re so overwhelmed that we cannot care for them because that’s even worse,” said Brewer.

Skevington says the pandemic is helping with the recruitment of nursing students.

“Actually, it is helping. Our past two application cycles we have had a tremendous number of applicants over our usual numbers,” Skevington stated.

LCMC Health which owns or operates eight health care facilities in the New Orleans area including East Jefferson General Hospital has partnered with Chamberlain University for a tuition-free nursing program to help address the shortage of nurses.

“So, this scholarship I think is allowing people of all levels, and in all of the cultures the opportunity to join health care,” said Brewer.

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