According to Lost on the Frontline, a project of Kaiser Health News and The Guardian, more than 3,500 health care workers had died of COVID-19 in the United States. Of the 1,693 whose occupations are known, 542 were nurses.
Hospitals are once again at overcapacity
Learn EM is a blog that contains analytics, deep dives, and more to help those in practice about emergency medicine. Voices in EM is an ongoing project where nurses can anonymously submit their experiences with hospitals being at full capacity due to the vicious resurgence of COVID-19. One story from Voices in EM states:
I’m seeing quite a few unvaccinated people in their 30s and 40s being admitted with the variant (delta). These were previously healthy people with no co-morbidities. This demographic was not as sick with last year’s variant.
-Anonymous submission for Voices in EM
Most of these accounts from nurses highlight the difference between the COVID outbreak of last year and this current Delta outbreak. Many nurses also note how children are more affected by the Delta outbreak. Things are looking rather dismal in most ICUs, including pediatrics.
However, there seems to be a relative trend that states with lower rates of vaccination are at higher risk. Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama are some states with the highest death rates with under 40% of the population being vaccinated.
On the other hand, the states of Washington, Oregon, and Maine all have over a 50% vaccination rate and also have some of the lowest number of cases in the country.
Elective surgeries have been cancelled/postponed due to full capacity of COVID patients
In an effort to preserve hospital staff and resources, states have begun to postpone and even cancel all elective surgeries.
An elective surgery generally means an operation that is scheduled in advance and not considered an emergency procedure. The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASAHQ) suggests that daily forecasting of COVID-19 demand on all resources will determine the ability of accepting non-COVID related procedures.
Examples of elective surgery include but are not limited to:
- removing a mole or wart
- kidney stone removal
- plastic surgery
Nursing shortages have been predicted for years, but the effects of the pandemic have only emphasized this inevitable future.
Diana Mason, PhD, RN, FAAN, senior policy service professor and co-director of the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at the George Washington University School of Nursing observes that:
“Nurses are fleeing. They are saying, ‘I’m not going to keep doing this,’ and nurses who can retire earlier are retiring early. I think we are going to have a nursing shortage that’s going to take at least a decade to reverse.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that there will be a 45% increase in positions for registered nurses from 2019-2029. Just for reference, the average job outlook for most fields is 4%.
With a job outlook that is astronomical, as well as the amount of nurses leaving due to retirement and burnout, a nursing shortage is inevitable.
Survey Information Analytics (SIA) collaborated with the Washington Center of Nursing to survey 418 nurses in the state of Washington about their nursing experiences throughout 2020. Their data concluded that:
- 51% were laid off or furloughed from one or more nursing/healthcare jobs.
- 42% thought about or made plans to leave the field of nursing.
- 69% reported moderate or extreme COVID-19 related staffing concerns.
- 61% reported moderate or extreme concern for their friends’/family’s safety.
- 42% believed their employers provided adequate quarantining for employees who may have been/were exposed to COVID-19.
According to the survey, 47% of respondents said they are leaving their positions because work negatively affects their health and well-being. Researchers also found that insufficient staffing and lack of adequate support from employers during the pandemic were also primary reasons nurses wanted to leave their positions.