Area nurses demanding the government declare nursing shortage a crisis

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Nurses across the metro area are calling for immediate action to address what is being described as an unsustainable nursing shortage.

Hospitals are feeling the grip that being understaffed can have.

One leading nursing association that represents millions of nurses across the country, including local ones.

Nurses at Hillandale Hospital in Lithonia are among the nurses calling for the federal government to declare the nationwide nursing shortage as a national crisis.

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Even though they’re fighting COVID-19 on the frontlines, many nurses tell Channel 2′s Ashli Lincoln that they are overworked and some of them are undertrained.

“The pandemic has really shined a light on the fact that nurses are more so burnt out more than anything,” said Dr. Patrice Little, a nurse practitioner.

She says the excessive stress, constant grief and fears of infection have led to pandemic burnout.

She says these are just some of the things leading to Georgia’s statewide nursing shortage that isn’t sustainable for the industry.

“So what we’re seeing is a flight of nurse practitioners, nurses that are leaving the profession,” Dr. Little said.

Dr. Little’s organization, Nurse Practitioner Student, has been helping prepare new nursing graduates as they enter an industry filled with pandemic pressure.

“The bottom line issue is that the patients are at risk, because a lot of the nurse practitioners are not as prepared as they were before prior,” Dr. Little said.

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Some nurses who wanted to remain anonymous told Channel 2 Action News that they feel unprepared for the COVID-19 patients they are having to take care of.

“There’s been more focus to get those spots filled, to fill in the primary care shortage and not necessarily the types of providers they’re trying to fill,” they told Lincoln.

The American Nurses Association is now demanding the federal government take swift concrete steps to help turn it around.

They want government leaders to identify long and short term solutions to staffing challenges, sustain a nursing workforce to meet current staffing demands, provide more mental health resources for nurses and include more recruitment and retention incentives.

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A survey from the American Nurses Foundation revealed the pandemic is causing about 92% of nurses to say they are considering leaving the workforce.

“This was an issue before but now it stands out even more because they’re graduating feeling unprepared, and when they feel unprepared, that’s when they panic and they make errors or they quit a job which continues to a high turnover which contributes to that shortage problem,” said Dr. Little.

Nurses say this will no doubt lead to a decline in medical care patients will receive at hospitals like longer wait times and even possible malpractice.