How the COVID vaccine is impacting nursing shortages

COVID-19 Vaccine

DENVER (KDVR) — The demand for nurses is soaring nationwide as hospitals try to keep up with rising COVID-19 numbers.

Freedom Healthcare Staffing, a Colorado-based company that pairs travel nurses with hospitals across the country, has noticed a volume of requests five times higher than other points in the pandemic.

“There are hospitals offering bonuses and other financial incentives. But I think the thing that really drives somebody that wants to help people is just to be there to help people,” said Susan Whitman, executive vice president at Freedom Healthcare Staffing.

Many hospitals are now requiring staff to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Some people in the medical field are resisting, keeping them out of critical roles in the hospital.

“Until they take the vaccine, their opportunities may be a little limited,” Whitman said.

Audrey Rieger, a registered nurse, spent the early months of the pandemic in Colorado helping administer COVID-19 tests. Rieger has since worked in places like Maine, Massachusetts and New York.

“When you have seen patients firsthand that have COVID and that are in the process of dying, it’s mind-altering,” Rieger said.

Rieger said getting the COVID vaccine was a no-brainer for her. When choosing which states to work in, she says vaccination rates matter. But Rieger would not rule out the idea of working in a hospital that does not require the COVID vaccine for staff.

“I have a feeling of a high moral obligation to care for others. A lot of nurses will do what they have to do. I personally would not feel as comfortable going into a place with low vaccination rates, but absolutely would go take care of patients,” Rieger said.

There are other nurses who are opposed to working in hospitals that do not require the vaccine, according to Rieger. That sentiment, combined with others resisting the vaccine, only adds to the already problematic shortage of nurses.

“It slows down the process. When there’s less people to do the job that needs to be done, it does impact health care,” Rieger said.

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