Federal government being asked to help amid nationwide nursing shortage

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nurses are feeling the pressure from the Delta variant, and now they’re asking the federal government to take action.

The American Nurses Association is urging the Department of Health and Human Services to address the growing nursing shortage before it’s too late.

The association says there was a staffing shortage before the pandemic, but they said it’s now a national crisis, and they need two million nurses to fix it. They believe that’s the most realistic number, accounting for retirements, burnout and the increased demand caused by the latest COVID surge.

The pandemic is hitting even closer to home for nurses.

>> COVID-Related Nurse Shortage Hitting Hospitals

Haley Griffiths, Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto ICU nurse, said, “We have had multiple team members, including myself, lose family members in our unit from COVID.”

Griffiths and another nurse, Stephanie Patterson, work in the ICU at Baptist Memorial Hospital – DeSoto in Mississippi – a state that’s been short 2,000 nurses this year.

“It’s been very heavy emotionally. It’s hard to debrief because the next patient relies on our ability to compartmentalize what we just saw and move on,” Griffiths said.

The American Nurses Association said the shortage is dire and they need relief. In a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the group is calling for more solutions to keep nurses, new payment methods and removing barriers that prevent advance practice nurses from performing certain care, like Telehealth.

President of the American Nurses Association, Dr. Ernest J. Grant, said, “You can’t ask that of a human being and expect them to continue to function effectively and efficiently. And, unfortunately, the downside to this is the consumer is the one who’s going to suffer.”

>> Pandemic, labor shortages have left long-term care facilities competing for staff

These nurses said they will keep showing up for patients but now, they’re asking their communities to show up for them.

Patterson said, “You may still get COVID-19. The vaccine is here to help prevent you from getting so sick, that you end up in our hospital and possibly lose your life.”

News Center 7′s Washington, D.C. bureau reporter Kirsten Garriss reached out to the Department of Health of Human Services several times, asking them about the letter the group’s request for help, but no comment has been made yet.