Nursing shortage as more nurses retire, leave industry; Ozarks hospitals remain cautiously optimistic

Updated: Apr. 14, 2022 at 8:00 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Nursing shortages were being predicted before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. However, the pandemic may have sped it up even faster.

CoxHealth’s Vice President of Human Resources Andy Hedgpeth says one of the reasons for this is that older nurses are starting to retire.

On top of that, some younger nurses are turning to less traditional jobs within the industry.

”A number of nurses can now go work for law firms,” Hedgpeth says. “They can work for school districts. They can work in arenas that didn’t exist for their need a few years ago.”

Hedgpeth says that’s created a drain on the healthcare systems as they lose people.

The driving factor leading nurses into some of these roles...

“More work-life balance oriented roles,” Hedgpeth says.

At Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar, Chief Nursing Officer Sarah Hanak says although some nurses left during the pandemic to make more money as travel nurses, three have returned in the last month.

“A couple of our nursing departments do not have open positions currently, and that is a great place to be,” Hanak says. “I didn’t know if that was even a realistic goal.”

Burnout and the trauma of the past two years has left a lasting mark in the nursing field.

“It was chaos,” Hanak says. “Now it’s normal. But I don’t know what to do with myself. I can’t find that drive I had or the reasons why I continue to do this. I’m feeling lost. We had several reach out and request support from our counseling services within our organization.”

However, Hanak is starting to see a shift toward positivity among nurses at CMH again.

“A whole new set of skills that they’re carrying with them and I think it is on that emotional level,” Hanak says. “They are resilient.”

Across the CoxHealth system, there are 350 openings for nurses.

However, Hedgpeth says the May graduation numbers are the highest seen in years, which leaves him optimistic for the future.

“We’re going to see a generation that comes through this and they are poised to take healthcare careers to the next level and they are excited about the opportunity to make a real world life change,” Hedgpeth says.

Both hospitals say that despite the continued need for nurses, patient care is not being impacted.

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