Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Pandemic leaves profound effect on nurse recruitment

Friday, May 7, 2021

If there ever was a more opportune time for the celebration of National Nurses Week, which began Thursday, it could be now, following a tempestuous year during the COVID pandemic.

With coronavirus cases diminishing and vaccinations on the rise, hospitals may be witnessing a glimmer of hope to return to business as usual.

While health care providers have an enduring devotion to medical treatment, recruiting and retaining nurses is still a business.

“Recruiting nurses in a rural setting has always been challenging, but the pandemic definitely worsened the situation,” said India Carroll, CEO of Green Clinic Health Systems in Ruston. “The demand for healthcare workers in general skyrocketed, bringing fierce competition to an already strained market.”

On a national level, Louisiana has its share of hurdles in luring health care workers to its borders. Larger states such as Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Arizona and California are the top destinations for relocation of Registered Nurses, according to columnist Carole Jakucs, MSN, RN.

For an area the size of Lincoln Parish, and considering its location, it’s even more difficult to bring in qualified nurses.

Once they’re here, however, the retention rate in Louisiana matches up with most states. In the South, hospital turnover averages 19%, according to a 2021 report by Nursing Staffing Solutions, Inc. (NSI). States to the east of Louisiana, such as Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Kentucky, have a higher rate of turnover, listed at nearly 25%.

Carroll’s view on how they treat nurses at the Green Clinic could offer a glimpse at why Louisiana keeps its nurses around.

“We have a fantastic Director of Nursing, Becky Murphy, who makes it her priority each and every day to communicate to the nursing staff how very appreciated they are, by the Clinic and the patients,” Carroll said.

“Burnout is a tremendous issue in nursing, particularly since the beginning of the pandemic. We feel that one of the most effective ways to maintain nursing morale is to ensure them a safe, positive work environment, and to consistently let them know how critical their roles are in keeping our community healthy,” she continued.

With National Nurses Week underway, the Green Clinic has plans to turn the spotlight on their health care workers.

Carroll said they always have a celebration in honor of the nursing staff, usually in the form of a festive meal.

“But more importantly, we work hard every day to let them know how very much we appreciate their dedication, personal sacrifice, and hard work,” she added.

Working long shifts during the pandemic was enough for any nurse to handle, but when you begin to peel back the layers of how the COVID treatment unfurled in the past year, it was a roller coaster ride for even the most experienced nurses.

Ruston resident Taylor Pool, who is an LPN with North Louisiana Medical Center, said the guidelines for handling virus cases changed so rapidly that nurses had to lean on each other even more to get through the process.

“We had to rely on our training more than ever,” said Pool.

Carroll echoed the sentiment that nurses tend to have each other’s back.

“Because the community is smaller, most of the staff know each other not only as colleagues, but as friends,” she explained. “Nursing is a very challenging field, particularly now. Working with friends and colleagues who share your passion and provide support makes everyone’s job more satisfying, which, in turn, helps you to be a better healthcare provider for your patients.”

Part of the NSI report also may shine a light on what administrators like Carroll are up against in staffing RNs. According to NSI, hospitals are experiencing an extremely high RN vacancy rate across the country. The Recruitment Difficulty Index remains at approximately 89 days — meaning it takes about three months on the average to recruit an experienced RN.

This may be improving as hospitals reemerge from stricter COVID guidelines.

“The entire world has been changed by the pandemic, and of course that includes nursing,” Carroll said. “Almost every aspect of their daily routines has been altered and made more difficult.

“But once again we see nurses around the country doing what they do best – adapting,” continued Carroll. “They put their heads down, go to work and find new and innovative ways to care for their patients. That is the resilience of nursing.”