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Kentucky nurses voice concerns over staffing shortage

Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 5:59 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The Kentucky Nurses Association released the results of a statewide survey Friday morning addressing the nursing shortage and recommendations on how to alleviate the issue.

“Staffing really is at a critical point right now,” said Kristin Pickerell, with Kentucky Organization of Nurse Leaders. “At most all hospitals and what we’re seeing is we are having to hire travel nurses to replace nurses that are leaving to go travel. It’s a viscous cycle that all of us in leadership are trying to figure out how do we get out of this.”

About 850 nurses were used as a sample for the survey in which 25% of the individuals indicated they would likely leave their current position in the next three months, while 75% were unsure or unlikely to leave soon.

“The top ranked contributors to the nursing shortage the number one rated was lack of sufficient nursing staff or heavy patient loads and that was 73 percent of our 850 respondents.”

One nurse responded to the survey saying, “We’re not factory workers. We cannot be on our feet running for 13 hours a day with no breaks, no lunches and minimal pay.”

Others say their overworked, exhausted and fearful of their health and safety.

“Medicaid underfunding has left skilled nursing facilities struggling to compete for qualified dedicated caregivers,” said Betsy Johnson, with the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities. “The government controls how we’re paid so it’s very difficult to compete with other health care settings and other workforce settings.”

Some expressed concern over an uptick in violence and threats toward healthcare workers, individuals who were once hailed heroes and essential front-line personnel during the pandemic.

“It is very scary from the nursing perspective on having to worry about protecting themselves,” said Pickerell.

As far as solutions go, respondents say more financial resources should be allocated. Community and personal support would be beneficial and consideration of student loan forgiveness could make a major difference.

“We still have a lack of nursing schools being provided in the far east and far west parts of our commonwealth.”

The KNA is asking the state for $100 million in American Rescue Plan funds. That could go toward providing bonuses to nurses who have worked through the pandemic. It would also help nursing schools graduate more students.

To view the full survey results, click here.

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