Nurse and lab tech shortages slowing medical professionals fight against COVID-19

Nurse and Lab Tech shortages hurting hospitals during the pandemic

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Much like a sports team, doctors in hospitals need much more than just themselves in order to complete their missions.

But a shortage of nurses and lab technicians as the coronavirus pandemic ramps back up this fall is making it hard for those teams to get their jobs done.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Coronavirus Pandemic in Georgia]

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Channel 2 News anchor Jovita Moore spoke with Dr. Brandy Gunsolus who works at Augusta University Medical Center. Gunsolus tells Moore the job shortages are really hurting them.

Gunsolus said, “So the situation not only here, but across the state, even across the nation is very dire. We are retiring our workforce much faster than we are recruiting new people in the profession. And right now we have 50 open positions at our facility, we have 37 Labs. So it’s not just one lab, it’s there’s a lot of different labs to do a lot of different testing, not just COVID. But you know, people are still getting cancer and everything else. And so all of that other testing still has to continue, as we do have a large number of openings. And on top of that 20% of our current workforce is scheduled to retire in the next five years. So we’re to critical point right now.”

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Gunsolus told Moore the problem existed before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has just made the situation worse.

“Absolutely. We’ve been facing a laboratory personnel shortage for a number of years, and the COVID pandemic just exasperated the situation right now. We’re basically running on fumes on what we call travel laboratory scientists. And so, you know, they, they’re short contract people. But it is a Band-Aid, on a situation that it’s it’s not healing, it’s, it’s getting worse. And the pandemic is also giving you a challenge to get in new personnel. Yes, a lot of people don’t really know that we exist. We’re the unseen faces of the medical community. A lot of people see their physicians, they see their nurses, they see pharmacists, but when they get their lab drawn, they just know oh, the blood goes off, and numbers come back and don’t really think about who’s actually doing that lab work behind the scenes,” Gunsolus said.

It’s a problem she says that won’t be solved any time soon.

“It’s a very specific training. Few people are going into it anymore. And but it’s it’s now becoming to be a really big issue,” said Gunsolus.

Channel 2 gets exclusive look inside lab performing thousands of COVID-19 tests a day