OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Nebraska is projected to have a shortage of 4,000 nurses over the next few years.
The current nursing shortage has nurses working longer and more difficult shifts, wreaking havoc on them physically as well as mentally.
“We go seven to seven, non-stop, very little time to take a lunch break but you have to take it, just to have a breather to get away from the critical care patients that are on our floor,” said registered nurse Kristen Robinson.
The projected shortage in the next few years is due to several factors.
“COVID made things worse, the population is aging and often as people age they need more healthcare,” said Juliann Sebastian, Dean and Professor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing.
To help fill the gap, UNMC has several new programs to get more people enrolled in nursing programs and also lift the burden on current nurses.
"When we are taking our days off we are getting called in, and there is also a bonus incentive for staff, “ Robinson said. “If they stay for a couple of months, they will get ‘x’ amount of thousands of dollars."
There is an accelerated eight-week program. Current nurses can work toward a master’s degree and there are certificate programs for internationally educated nurses.
“What we are seeing in the hospital is that nurses are worked so hard and it is not easy to do in full PPE equipment,” Sebastian said. “It is necessary for safety and the equity level of patients, that is just hard to see on a day-to-day basis."
"We need to have some empathetic people who want to take care of people,” Robinson said. “It's not easy work. You are in there with people who are angry that they are there, they are sick, not feeling good.”
Getting more nurses in the programs will relieve some of the burdens for current nurses.
"I always go in with a smile. If I can make at least one person smile then I have met my goal for the day," said Robinson.
There are also programs where you can work in a hospital while going to school.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for nurses is expected to grow by 15 percent, much higher than the national job average.
UNMC has scholarships available as well as other methods of financial assistance.