America's critical shortage of nurses, which predates the pandemic, escalates as more leave hospitals amid heightened workloads, increased stress and virus risks.
Southeast Michigan networks are among those scrambling to find nurses. Ascension lists over 170 openings at six hospitals in the region, some posted since spring. Detroit Medical Center and its affiliates have 215 job listings for registered nurses.
Beaumont Health schedules four "virtual hiring blitz" events from Dec. 1-15 for RNs to work in Royal Oak, Dearborn, Trenton and Grosse Pointe, plus one Tuesday for nursing assistants at all eight of its hospitals. (Assistants are in such demand that full-timers get a $1,500 hiring bonus.)
"The nursing shortage nationwide means nurses are in greater demand than ever," posts Henry Ford Health System. "We are continually seeking qualified nurses to join us in a number of roles." Openings in Detroit and suburbs are listed here, including vacancies posted since January.
These employment gaps arise, not coincidentally, as the plague of 2020 sets infection records nearly every day of its current surge. "Some hospitals are desperately searching for staffers and paying dearly for it," The Washington Post reports last week.
"This is a disaster everywhere. This is outstripping capacity in many states at the same time,” said Karen Donelan, a professor of health policy at Brandeis University who studies medical staffing. "So people are competing for labor that they used to just pass around."
... In addition to the perennial [staffing] problems, hospitals are facing significant new challenges: Nurses and other caregivers are burned out from many months of caring for Covid-19 patients. Some are leaving their jobs to care for children who cannot attend school, or some have become infected themselves. Others nearing retirement see this as a good time to get out of the profession before they become sick, experts said.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, a nurse at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, is quoted by Associated Press recently as saying several nurses have left in the past month to work in hospice or home care or at outpatient clinics.
"And replacing them is not easy," Fitzpatrick says.
He says the emergency department at his hospital is operating at about five nurses short of its optimal level at any given time, and each nurse typically cares for four patients as Covid-19 hospitalizations again are surging.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for 1.1 million new nurses by 2022 to avoid a nursing shortage as hundreds of thousands of late-career RNs retire.