Nursing shortages – Healthcare Economist

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While the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the worst part of the pandemic is largely past us (see NYT graph) with more people getting vaccinated. One would expect that as vaccine uptake has risen and cases have fallen, interest in the nursing profession would rise and those who left the nursing profession due to COVID-19 may return. It turns out that this logic is not exactly correct. According to an article in Vox:

Covid-19 may no longer be surging widely across the United States, but America’s hospitals are still experiencing a staffing crisis that is putting critical care for patients in jeopardy.
Hospitals all over the country are struggling, especially those in lower-population areas…Nearly 99 percent of rural hospitals surveyed said they were experiencing a staffing shortage; 96 percent of them said they were having the most difficulty finding nurses.

Almost half of the hospitals in the survey said staffing problems had prevented them from accepting new patients in the past 60 days. One in four hospitals said that a lack of nurses had forced them to suspend certain services, including, according to Michael Topchik, national leader of the Chartis Center for Rural Health: newborn delivery, chemotherapy, and colonoscopies. Another one in five said they were considering it.

Not only is staffing falling but the cost of hiring nurses is rising.

According to a September study commissioned by the American Hospital Association, the average cost of labor expenses for each discharged patient has grown by 14 percent in 2021 — even as the number of full-time employees has dropped by 4 percent.

Burnout due to the COVID-19 crisis is certainly a key issue. Further, patients who put off care during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic now are seeking the care they had previously put off. Further, hospitals are increasingly relying on traveling nurses rather than permanent staff hires which is driving up costs as well.

For more details, read the full article.



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