A plea to retired nurses: ‘We need you’ as Ala. faces nursing shortage due to COVID-19 pandemic

Hospital officials say the demand for registered nurses greatly outweighs the current supply...
Hospital officials say the demand for registered nurses greatly outweighs the current supply and so, hospitals need to come up with creative solutions to alleviate nurse workloads in the case of a surge.(Live 5 News)
Updated: Dec. 8, 2020 at 10:26 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - State hospitals pleaded to retired nurses to put back on their scrubs and head to work as the state faced a shortage of nurses with more COVID-19 patients in the hospital.

They’re heroes, but nurses are also human and they’re being stretched to their limits especially in rural hospitals.

Advocates said rural hospitals were already suffering before the COVID-19 pandemic and the problem of staff shortages continuously grew worse as the months went on.

Ryan Kelley with the Alabama Rural Health Association said the state was losing nurses to other states that offered better pay and hours before the pandemic, and since the pandemic, more nurses were traveling seeking those same benefits.

As a result, those left on the front lines in Alabama worked “longer hours under more difficult conditions,” according to Kelly.

The problem wasn’t just on the outskirts. All state hospitals were feeling the pressure, according to John Ziegler, Executive Director of the Alabama State Nurses Association, who said the workload wasn’t safe.

“All of the data shows when you put 12-hour shifts on one person back-to-back for two, three, four days, then the chances for error and mistakes and the stress on the nurse takes its toll,” Ziegler explained.

To lighten the load, health leaders said some state hospitals were using nurses from other countries. Ziegler said that’s not out of the norm, but said state hospitals were reaching out to local retired nurses and students for help.

“Retired nurses [and students] who can come in and work in non-COVID areas, so it’s more or less safe,” said Ziegler.

Health advocates said there would need to be relief for all hospitals as they couldn’t continue on under the dire circumstances, they hoped that relief would come with the vaccine.

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