Worker shortages persist in Las Vegas hospitals, amid drop in COVID-19 cases

Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 11:55 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) -Worker shortages persist across Southern Nevada hospitals, although COVID-19 cases have dropped in recent weeks.

In late February, the Nevada Hospital Association reported staffing persisted at “crisis” levels.

Nursing apprentices from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, who heeded the call of Governor Steve Sisolak to serve on the frontlines, said they and their peers see the worker shortages causing challenges for staff in hospitals.

“My role there is, support all the nurses I can…. they need all the help they can,” said Jeffrey Wan, a UNLV student helping a local hospital.

“I see a lot of nurses… they’re burned out, there’s a lot of vacancy,” he said.

According to UNLV School of Nursing Dean Angela Amar, a delay in patient care throughout the pandemic contributes to the current heavy patient loads.

“The people who are coming to the hospital now are just really sick. And a lot of it is from the delays in seeking care. People stayed home and they didn’t get any medical care, any hospital care for the last year and a half,” Amar said.

Throughout the pandemic, nurses have retired, relocated out of Nevada, or moved out of hospital settings due to severe burnout. Dean Amar said nurses, whether in the field or retired must have incentives to stay or return.

“Pay is not the only factor. It’s looking at how can we pay nurses that incentivize people to work and want to work. We’ve also got to look at the healthcare environment and think about how might we make our environments better for nurses that more nurses can stay in that environment... there are programs that hospitals can implement that decrease burnout,” Amar said.

A major concern for local nurses continues to be high patient-to-nurse ratios, or the number of patients assigned in a single shift.

In late March, pandemic staffing ratios persisted across the Las Vegas valley, from 8 to 1 up to a 12 to1 ratio, according to nurses anonymously to FOX5.

In contrast, in California, state law dictates a maximum of a 5 to 1 ratio in hospitals.

“Why don’t hospitals want safe staffing ratios?” one nurse told FOX5 anonymously via social media. Many nurses voice concerns about making potentially concerning errors with too many patients under their wing in one shift.

“Nevada has no limits. And that’s something to think about. Should there be some cap on nurse-patient ratio? That’s certainly one method of decreasing the stress level of nurses,” Amar said.

Amar said 1,500 applicants expressed interest in enrolling as nursing students, but the program can accept a maximum of 300 per each class. More students will be possible with more funding.