Hospitals struggle with not enough nurses, backup of patients

A nationwide nursing shortage is having an effect on patient care in emergency rooms.
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Dr. Erika Kube

A nationwide nursing shortage is having an effect on patient care in emergency rooms.

As I walked through the emergency department a few days ago I realized I didn’t recognize many of the staff who were working. I have been an emergency physician in my current job for more than 10 years and usually know most of the team. Over the years, I have seen staff members advance their careers, get married, have kids and move out of state or to another country, but I have never seen it like this. I sat next to a nurse I have known for a long time and asked what was going on. The nurse, Beth, sighed and asked if I really wanted to know.

She told me that more of our staff nurses had recently left and there was a new group of travel nurses who had just started. There have always been travel nurses, who work in short-term roles. However, the need for travel nurses has grown significantly in recent years due to a combination of factors. As our staff nurses have left for various reasons, our hospital and emergency department (like many others across the country) have had to fill the gaps with travel nurses.

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