Big Country hospitals suffering through nursing shortage

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – A nationwide shortage has created the need for nearly one million new nurses over the next five years, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

That shortage has since hit the Big Country, causing higher stress levels and more frequent work-related burnouts within the healthcare industry.

Pearl Merritt, Regional Dean of the Texas Tech School of Nursing, said there are more nurses considering retirement rather than dealing with a second round with COVID-19.

She also said many nurses are leaving to become traveling nurses due to higher salaries.

Merritt said they are very fortunate that the nursing schools are staying full and are trying to get as many registered nurses out as they can.

Because of the shortage, opportunities arose for those not in the nursing field who have wanted to be.

Joe Gomez, a registered nurse at Hendrick, said he got into nursing after his father passed away and he saw how they treated him and his family.

“That’s when I gained the respect of nursing, and saw how they treated my dad and advocated for my dad, especially with him being so sick,” Gomez said.

Gomez said that the high stress of healthcare is evident, but add to that the new COVID-19 delta variant and a staffing shortage, and it gets that much trickier.

“I don’t even know how to describe it,” Gomez said.

He said that the stress can be tough to handle, admitting he brings home that stress some nights, but also knows when to leave it at the hospital.

He said he must be mentally strong to work in the field because he knows that other people’s lives are in his hands everyday.

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