Future of nursing looks bright, but current shortage is more severe following pandemic

A nursing shortage has historically been an issue, but a local nurse and educator said it’s become more severe and uniform during the pandemic.

"A year into the pandemic, at least a third of healthcare providers, doctors and nurses, were reporting depression, anxiety, insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder which shows that it’s very difficult to be working in the healthcare field and to be first responders," said Tatiana Sadak, an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Education at the UW School of Nursing.

While the data may have evolved, Sadak said it’s no question that being short-staffed can be a lot more catastrophic when caring for a higher number of patients in a more extreme, stressful environment like we’ve experienced since early 2020.

The Washington Center for Nursing released a study this summer on COVID-19’s impact on the Nursing Workforce.

A  survey of more than 400 nurses found that more than 40 percent of them considered leaving the field, and nearly 70 percent reported COVID-19 related staffing concerns.

"The average age of nurses in Washington State, registered nurses, was 46 so kind of closer to retirement," said Sadak. "It’s really important to produce a robust generation of new graduate nurses. New people coming into the field and fusing it with hope and energy and enthusiasm."

The future of nursing is looking hopeful. This past spring, UW School of Nursing reported application numbers soared and believed it was a byproduct of the pandemic that grew interest in the field.

For the last two years, Lyndsy Vasquez of Marysville said she has been working as an emergency room technician. She said that solidified her decision to pursue nursing as a career.

"I’ve always been the kind of person who really works in organized chaos and being in the emergency room you never know what you’re going to get," said Vasquez. "Helping others has really just been a huge passion of mine and I’m so excited."

Vasquez will graduate from the UW School of Nursing with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2022.

She hopes to join the ranks of other nurses in the emergency room soon after graduation, and has plans to pursue further education down the road.

"People are excited about being a nurse. They are looking forward to being part of the solution," said Sadak. "We really need to be graduating more students, and to graduate more students, we need more nursing faculty, more clinical sites and more scholarships to really be able to recruit a diverse body of students."

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