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Mid-South outlook on nationwide nursing shortage during COVID-19 pandemic

Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 5:01 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 7, 2022 at 8:41 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Some Memphis hospitals are still feeling the strain of nursing shortages in the health care field. Action News spoke with administrators at two Memphis hospitals about the issue.

Omicron is just another factor added into the mix that’s exasperated things. Both Methodist and Baptist say in comparison to last year they have more associates out for COVID-19 because it’s so contagious.

RELATED | Health officials expect to see peak COVID-19 hospitalizations this weekend

There are other factors. Between retirements, health care providers moving outside hospital settings and more there’s a domino effect playing out.

Staffing challenges have been at play across the health care industry not just in positions like nursing. The impacts have been felt with respiratory therapists, diagnostic technicians, transporters, environmental services and dietary assistance.

“We have patients in our hospitals that need post-acute care, like rehab, will their staffing is affected as well, and so they don’t have enough staff to help us move our patients so that we can see more patients,” said Mary Ellen Sumrall, interim CNO at Baptist.

Methodist Hospital says the shortage isn’t just a challenge in Memphis, rather a national issue felt locally.

The chief nurse executive from Methodist, Nikki Polis, says the factors to the current staffing challenges are complex.

However, there are some short and long-term solutions. She says recruitment, retention and recognition are three major strategies they’re using to alleviate the challenge.

“Other things we’ve done is we’ve done commitment bonuses, we’ve done making sure our pay is competitive,” said Polis. “Absolutely looking at when somebody steps up and does extra shifts, how do we reward those things? So again, really, it’s really about showing our gratitude and then some other kinds of things.”

Other hospitals like Baptist also say they have special pay incentives and are trying to help nursing schools with more scholarships.

Both hospitals say the future for the health care industry is bright. They ask for patience as hospitals deal with COVID-19 surges among staffing challenges. And as a reminder, health officials ask you only use the emergency room for emergencies.

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