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Tampa Bay hospitals see impacts of worsening nationwide nursing shortage

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Posted at 5:51 AM, Feb 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-04 10:14:27-05

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — “I think it’s more of a nursing crisis rather than a shortage,” said Keosha Morris, a Registered Nurse in Pinellas County.

Hospitals nationwide have been overwhelmed, struggling to keep up as some places see the healthcare worker shortage reach critical levels.

“When you see what’s happening universally in healthcare, I mean 20% of all healthcare workers have quit the field in the past two years,” said Dr. Paul Nanda, Chief Medical Officer for Tampa General Hospital Urgent Care.

In Tampa Bay, hospitals are seeing this too. Nurses tell us they’re overwhelmed with the workload.

“Some days are kind of rough. It just depends on what your patient load is. You just do the best you can for your patients and go home and wait for the next day," said Morris.

Due to the lack of staffing, many nurses are having to take care of more and more patients.

“Typically I would’ve only had five patients and six sometimes and now we have six all the time and just in the last few weeks we moved to having seven patients every day,” said Morris.

She said the heavier workload makes it more difficult for them to be able to do their jobs properly.

“Because you’re pulled in so many different directions, it’s a lot harder for you to monitor and manage your patients properly because you can’t tend to them how you want to,” said Morris.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the shortage worse.

“I know a lot of people suffer from mental health issues from seeing patients pass and stuff from COVID or dealing with COVID patients or even regular patients and not being able to care for them properly really takes a toll on you. You take that stuff home with you… It’s real hard when they can’t even have their family come see them in their last days. They can’t have anyone with them in their last days so it’s just you and your patient,” said Morris.

The pandemic caused even more nurses to leave their local hospitals altogether, or look for different options.

“It’s a bit of an arms race because nurses leave because they see someone next to them as a traveling nurse getting paid five times what they make and so then they quit and join traveling nurses,” said Nanda.

“Travel nursing is a temporary fix. Even agency nursing is a temporary fix,” said Morris.

While getting paid more would be helpful, nurses tell us it’s about much more than money because they’re stretched so thin.

“It’s more so about the way that I can take care of my patients properly because that’s what I take home. The pay will come in two weeks, not every day. Every day I take home the feeling of how did I care for my patients today? How well did I care for them? Is there something that I didn’t do?” said Morris.

She thinks the shortage is getting worse and said changes need to be made.

“Hospitals need to recruit and obtain and try to retain their own staff so that the better you treat your staff, the more they’re willing to stay,” said Morris.

Many healthcare workers worry this will continue and impact the way they can care for our communities if hospitals aren’t able to get more staff.

“It should be one of our top priorities because if our patients are not being cared for properly they’re going to have a lot of medical distress. They’re not going to trust the medical system to take care of their needs,” said Morris.

“Eventually some people might start leaving nursing altogether because of the situations and the conditions that we’re dealing with,” she added.

“I think that people assume that healthcare workers are a renewable energy source, but we're not,” said Nanda.