The heartbeat of healthcare': Concern grows over NC's nursing shortage

Josh Chapin Image
Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Experts weigh in on what to do as nursing shortage grows statewide
One of the glaring side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was the nursing shortage crisis, a concern that still remains.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- One of the glaring side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was the nursing shortage crisis.

A recent study found that 100,000 registered nurses left the workforce during the past two years because of stress and burnout.

Another 610,000 plan to leave over the next four years.

"You name the area and there's a shortage there," said Dr. Dennis Taylor, a nurse practitioner with Wake Forest Baptist Health. "It is certainly more than we've ever seen."

Taylor is also the immediate past president of the North Carolina Nurses Association.

He said nurses are needed not only in hospital settings but also in nursing homes, schools, and in public health.

"Right now we need somewhere in the range of 8,000 to 10,000 new nurses every year just to replace those that are leaving the workforce," he said.

COVID exacerbated the problem that's been brewing for years, according to Taylor.

"I still think that we certainly knew there was going to be a shortage with so many of those baby boomers in that age group getting ready to retire: that hurt as well," he said.

Dr. Ernest Grant spent more than 30 years bedside at UNC Hospitals.

He said it's essential to put more money into nursing education. Right now nursing schools can't enroll as many people as there are needed to fill the gaps.

On this National Nurses Week, Dr. Grant, past president of the American Nurses Association, said there needs to be a focus on mental health and well-being to recruit more people to the profession.

There's discussion now about reducing hours from 12 to 8 or even splitting 12-hour shifts between two people.

"Nurses are the heartbeat of healthcare," Grant said. "Nurses pick up on those subtle things and we're able to prevent those from growing so that's why it is so essential to the country."