For 20 years, the state of Oklahoma has been in a nursing shortage, according to the Oklahoma Nurses Association. The group said as COVID-19 patients continue to fill up our hospitals, they believe more can be done to bring health care workers to Oklahoma.
The Nurses Association said this shortage could be devastating as COVID-19 continues to impact the state. They’ve come up with recommendations which they believe could help solve the issue.
According to the group, Oklahoma hospitals are struggling to staff enough beds to provide care for patients. Especially with this recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
“It takes a huge emotional toll on our caregivers,” said Carol James, with Mercy Hospital. “Especially those that are pulling those extra shifts away from their family.”
Last month, the Nurses Association and Oklahoma Academic Practice Partnership sent a letter to Governor Kevin Stitt listing possible solutions to the shortage. The recommendations include recruiting by crowd sourcing, increasing nursing wages, and using additional nursing students. They also conducted a meeting with the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
“There are multiple conversations that happen on a daily basis,” said Cathy Pierce, Chief Nurse Executive at OU Medical. “Hour by hour to keep us focused on how we can provide the best care.”
In a statement from Governor Stitt’s office, it said in part:
“…we are committed to working together on a plan to recruit more nurses to serve in Oklahoma and to find ways to continue to support them as we protect the health and lives of Oklahomans.”
The Nurses Association also said due to the lower wages, they’re seeing more nurses leave to work in other states. They said five out of the six states which border Oklahoma provide higher salaries.
“60% of the nurses we educate leave Oklahoma to go to other states,” said Kristen Webb, with Duncan Regional Health. “We’ve got to stop this brain drain.”
Officials with the OSDH also said they’re working with these groups to find the best possible solutions that will help increase health care staffing moving forward.