Michigan Association of Health Plans

Stressed out and overwhelmed: Michigan nurses burned out from COVID-19 pandemic

Michigan nurses say they are stressed out, overwhelmed and feeling on edge while working during the COVID-19 pandemic as the cases and hospitalizations continue to rise, as more nurses leave the profession.

Hospital executives said pandemic burnout and retirement are leading to staffing shortages at hospitals as the state faces a fourth wave of COVID-19. Experts say the nursing shortage could have potentially deadly consequences.

Eighteen months into the pandemic and each passing day gets more stressful for Jamie Brown, an Ascension Borgess Hospital nurse and president the Michigan Nurses Association.

“I’ve seen more death in the last 18 months, then my 18 years in nursing,” Brown said.

The Michigan Hospital Association said its seen a 16% increase in hospital emergency department visits compared to the same period before the pandemic in 2019.

The increasing demand putting pressure on nurses, young and old alike.

“A lot of people go to nursing school thinking it’s so pretty,” Drew Root, a registered nurse at Bronson Battle Creek Hospital, said.

Root started as a nurse in August at Bronson Battle Creek Hospital’s COVID-19 unit.

“I feel like people feel like they’re stuck in a rut when they’re in the same unit, and seeing the same death after death after death, it just gets overwhelming,” Root said.

According to the 2021 National Health Care Retention and RN Staffing report, 93% of nurses who left hospitals during the pandemic either retired or quit.

“We have emerging data that nurses were expressing high rates of burnout before the pandemic,” Christopher Friese, a professor of health management and policy at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, said.

Friese’s previous research showed the chance of a patient dying increase the more patients there are in a nurses care.

“It’s a dangerous time for nurses and healthcare workers,” Friese said.

Friese and Michigan healthcare leaders said the COVID-19 pandemic is deepening existing staff shortages felt for years at hospitals across the state.

“I’m deeply worried by the trends we’re seeing in the state and the nation,” Friese said.

To close fill staffing shortages, Michigan healthcare leaders said more hospitals are signing more travel nurses.

They work on short-term contracts, and many are leaving for lucrative temporary jobs with some traveling nurse agencies that can pay upwards of $5,000 or more a week.

A recent job posting at an emergency department in Kalamazoo sought a travel nurse to work in an emergency department for four 12-hour shifts for $5,124 a week or $133, 244 for the 26-week contract. The listed start date: “ASAP.”

Brown estimates there’s about 100 of the 600 nurses who currently work at Ascension Borgess Hospital, as of Sept. 21, are traveling nurses.

“Nurses with more experience are leaving for better paying jobs and travel,” she said.

The trend is raising concerns over what happens when travel nurses leave local hospitals.

“I worry about communities where hospitals may not have the financial means to continue this for an amount of time and they don’t have a local pool of nurses to attract,” Friese said.

One month into the job, Root said the job is already taking a toll.

“Emotionally it’s very overwhelming. You turn off the radio when you go home and start crying,” Root said.

Michigan state lawmakers introduced legislation in March 2021 that would set a maximum patient ratios for nurses.

The bills remains stuck in a house committee, there’s no indication lawmakers will vote on it.

This article originally appeared in WWMT 3 News Read more here

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