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Virginia nurses warn of ‘recipe for disaster’ during staffing shortage

Virginia nurses warn of ‘recipe for disaster’ during staffing shortage
Posted at 5:48 PM, Dec 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-20 18:20:21-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- A group of Virginia nurses are warning of a “potentially rough January and February” as families prepare to spend time with loved ones for the Christmas holiday.

In a statement on Monday, Virginia Nurses Association Director of Engagement Kristin Jimison wrote that the winter months could be difficult for healthcare workers if hospitals continue to fill because of the Omicron variant.

“The influx of unvaccinated patients due to Omicron on the heels of Delta, in combination with a growing shortage of nurses, is a recipe for disaster,” Jimison said. “Sheer exhaustion combined with pandemic-related mental trauma and PTSD have resulted in a significant number of nurses simply leaving the profession or taking positions outside of acute patient care.”

Dr. Carlton Stadler, a Central Virginia hospital administrator, echoed the struggles he’s seeing with a nursing shortage and a lack of intensive care unit beds.

“The volume of patients that are coming down with COVID or have existing medical problems and COVID are certainly crowding emergency rooms,” Stadler explained. “Multiple hospitals being on diversion and not being able to accept patients which certainly puts a strain on our EMS partners right now.”

On Monday, the Virginia Department of Health reported a 9.4% positivity or the percentage at which tested individuals are receiving positive COVID-19 diagnoses.

The member of the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians planned to spend his Christmas holiday working.

“We have providers who have gotten sick. The volumes are very unpredictable at this point. We know it’s going to be high some days and low on others,” Dr. Stadler stated. “COVID has put a stress on nursing right now that has made some of them question if it’s something they continue to be doing.”

Jimison warned that not enough nurses leads to an insufficient number of staffed beds, which could lead to long waits to see a doctor regardless of the emergency.

“When a hospital with a nurse shortage becomes overloaded with acute COVID-19 patients, this means that other patients who need emergency care cannot receive it,” she said. “Imagine having to wait for care after being in a car accident, having a heart attack, or needing cancer treatment. Hospital bed counts only matter if you are counting the nurses available to staff them.”

“It’s very important to get that vaccination”

Few spots remained open in the parking lot outside of the Arthur Ashe Center on Monday, which has served as Richmond’s vaccination site for weeks.

Tina Fauntleroy brought her brother to the clinic to get his second COVID-19 vaccination after some persuasive conversations.

“I did have to urge him to get his shot,” she stated. “I just told him it’s very important to get the shot, so he won’t get sick and die actually.”

Christian Massengill received his third vaccine or booster shot before traveling to Chesapeake to visit family.

“We wanted to make sure we are protected against all the variants before we go see our grandparents,” Massengill said. “I’m here to get my booster before I go down to see them to make sure I don’t bring any sickness to them. Make sure they stay healthy.”

Most visitors to the clinic told CBS 6 that they were able to walk in without an appointment and received their shot within 15 minutes.

"It’s very important to get that vaccination," Fauntleroy said.

Massengill, who is a student at UVA, encouraged others to get their vaccinations.

“You’re doing it for other people even if you’re thinking you’ll be okay,” he explained.

The Virginia Nurses Association urged everyone to do their part to lessen the load on nurses this holiday season.

“Please continue to do all the things that we know can slow down COVID-19,” Jimison wrote in a statement. “This means: get vaccinated, get a booster when you’re eligible, wear a mask, wash your hands, and make smart decisions about gathering this holiday season.”