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Nebraska nurse leaders open up about fatigue, burnout and disrespect from patients

Nurses don't sugarcoat pandemic struggles
Posted at 7:18 PM, Feb 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-07 20:18:27-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — With case counts and hospitalizations at high levels, Nebraska nurse leaders are discussing the continued impact of COVID-19 on our healthcare system.

While hospitals have hope that there is a "beginning to an end" with the omicron surge, nurse leaders don't sugarcoat the profession's struggles.

"We had one-third of our new hires, our first-year nurses, leave the organization in the last fiscal year. That's the highest we've ever seen, so the pandemic is definitely impacting our staffing," said Nebraska Medicine Chief Nursing Officer Dr. Sue Nuss.

Nurses leaving the hospital in droves is sad for Nuss to see.

"Some of them are leaving for traveling positions themselves. Some are leaving for jobs that are Monday through Friday; maybe a surgical center. Some are leaving healthcare altogether," Nuss said.

Nuss cites burnout and compassion fatigue as her biggest concerns when it comes to her workforce.

"They don't feel like they are getting those accolades anymore. They are not necessarily seen as heroes; that life has gone on and society has gone (on) but they are still in the trenches caring for these patients. And to the sometimes disrespectful patients and families that come through, it's like a slap in the face," Nuss said.

"We've had our employees actually physically assaulted and verbally abused over masking and visitor issues," said Lisa Vail, the Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer of Bryan Health.

Hospitals don't have trouble hiring, they say. The real issue is retaining staff, which is greatly concerning to healthcare leaders.

"Our society as a whole is just tired. It's been two years. We're just tired of being in this pandemic and the fight on the masks and non-masks and vaccinations and non-vaccinations. And everyone is just on edge and what the nurses want to do is just take care of the patients," Nuss said.

Bryan Health announced some retention initiatives, tuition reimbursements and student loan payments for employees. There are currently 151 open registered nurse positions.


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