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Burnout likely to worsen nursing shortage

Research shows experienced nurses are leaving the bedside. The president of the North Carolina Nursing Association calls it "alarming."

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As much of society attempts to return to normal, health care workers, specifically nurses, are struggling to do that. Research continues to show nurses are feeling burnt out and frustrated with many leaving the bedside and exacerbating the existing nursing shortage.

Nurses play a crucial role in keeping a hospital functioning.

“You don’t even have to speak their language to be able to understand, in that moment, what they need,” Amy Hicks, a Charlotte-area nurse told WCNC Charlotte said.

Hicks said the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most challenging times of her three-decade-long nursing career.

“We were working extra hours because people were quitting," she said. "Staffing was short for the entire time."

The extra work only accelerated burnout for those still on the job. Hiring during the pandemic was also a challenge. Hicks said it was the first time in her career she experienced people not wanting to work in the hospital system.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina found hospitals in the state could be short tens of thousands of nurses in the next decade.

Leaders with the North Carolina Nursing Association (NCNA) told WCNC Charlotte it’s “alarming” and worry those numbers could be even higher because of burnout and frustration among nurses.

Building up a pipeline of nurses ready to enter the career is critical.

“We cannot afford to lose a person," Meka Douthit, the president of the NCNA said. " We need to let them know, 'I see you, I hear you, I support you and I champion your sacrifice.'"

Fortunately, Northeastern University in Charlotte has seen growing class sizes year after year for its accelerated Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing Program. It started in 2017 with less than ten students.  In the Fall of 2022, they’re expecting to have 80 students.

“It’s important to have enough nurses to care for the entire population from newborn to geriatric,” Grace Buttriss, the program director at Northeastern University said. “I have a passion for making sure our students know what they’re getting into. They want to be here. They want to be nurses and they want to be great nurses.”

It’s the same passion that drives  Hicks. She left the bedside a year ago and is now teaching nursing at Cabarrus College of Health Sciences.

“The culture I was raised in, nursing was you have to be independent, and you need to be able to figure it out for yourself. I think that’s the way nurses drown and leave early in their career,” she said. “I think teaching nurses [is to say]: You have to reach out, people will help you.”

Northeastern University is trying to entice more people in the Charlotte metropolitan area to get into the nursing field. The school is currently offering a $20,000 scholarship to all students who meet certain criteria.

Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. 

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