Nursing shortage affecting hospitals across the nation amid COVID-19 pandemic

The nursing shortage is reaching critical levels across the nation and here at home. We are getting an in-depth look at what is going inside our hospitals.

"We are the glue that keeps healthcare together. At all ends of the spectrum because there is not a single clinic, a single hospital, any kind of center that can run without a nurse," said Elda Ramirez, who is a professor with UT Health and also an ER nurse practitioner.

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She’s been working in the ER since 1988 and says it has never been this bad.

"They are coming through the ambulance, coming through the ambulance, and then coming through the door. We can’t stop them and say the doors are closed because of legal reasons. We can’t stop them even though there’s no room. We have to switch around everything we do based on the fact that we have no beds. Even though we have physical beds, because there are no nurses, to care for those patients," she said.


According to the American Nurses Association, more registered nurse jobs with be available through this year than any other profession in the U.S. The shortages are attributed to a lack of potential educators, high turnover.

FOX 26 spoke with a traveling nurse. They are contracted to different ER’s based on need versus being a full-time employee. She says they are often dealing with a one to three nurse-to-patient ratio in the ICU.

"The ICUs are very busy, to begin with, so if you pair that with COVID patients, an influx of often critical patients, and sometimes you find shortages in all ICU's, not just COVID. These nurses are being pulled from different areas to take care of these critical patients," said Leah Bennett, a traveling nurse.


"Right now, it is just so intense and so overwhelming that there isn’t that balance anymore of we saved somebody and it feels good. It’s like oh they have COVID too, they have COVID, or this person doesn’t have COVID, but because of COVID they are so sick and don’t want to come in," said Ramirez.

"This is a really difficult time. We are trying to cope the best we can. At the end of the day, it is about the patient. We have to bring what we are feeling into that because it really does affect the overall care when your nurse is feeling burnt out or feeling stressed," said Bennett.


The good news is that help is on the way according to Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. More than 300 nurses are expected to arrive in county hospitals. She recently said the county’s public health office is ready to send more if needed.