Nurses continue to leave the workforce as coronavirus pandemic nears second year

Coronavirus

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — There is a shortage of nurses nationwide that is only growing as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Many are wondering if vaccine mandates are making existing nursing shortages worse.

“To have nurses leaving the workforce at this time where we’ve never needed nurses more…” said Brenda Woodmansee, the President of District 4 of the Alabama State Nurses Association.

There’s currently an estimated shortage of a million nurses in the country and more are leaving the workforce daily. “Nurses are quitting,” said Sandra Wakeley, a Gulf Coast area nurse.

According to a recent survey by the American Nurses Association, about 92 percent of nurses have at least contemplated leaving the workforce.

“We are exhausted,” Wakeley said.

This is as we approach the two-year mark of the coronavirus pandemic.

Of the hospitals in Mobile County, Ascension Providence is requiring its employees to complete their COVID-19 vaccine series by Nov. 12. Infirmary Health is not requiring its employees to get the vaccine, but they are encouraging employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. USA Health and Springhill Medical Center have no vaccine mandate in place.

“Nurses are already mandated to get a number of vaccinations,” Woodmansee said.

Many nurses we spoke with believe there will be some who will leave because of a vaccine mandate, but it won’t impact the already strained system as much as other factors.

“Exodus from exhaustion and, maybe, moral depletion — It’s one thing to ask people to leap up and go above and beyond for a couple of weeks or a couple of months. But this has been going on for at least 18 months. And that is just exhausting. Exhausting,” Woodmansee said.

Wakeley said the hardest part of working right now for her is watching her co-workers struggle. “I’m watching my co-workers fall apart,” she said.

Many say nurses are frustrated with the lack of pay. The Alabama State Nurses Association says Alabama nurses are paid eight percent less than the surrounding states, and many are leaving for better opportunities with better pay.

“I can’t even imagine what it’s like for people in the hospital. It has just got to be unbelievably difficult,” Woodmansee said.

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