BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — As misinformation on the pandemic continues to spread and vaccination rates stay low, nursing vacancies are going up.
Alabama Hospital Association President Dr. Don Williamson said the expectation is the opposite this deep into the pandemic, but that’s not the case here in the state, nor nationwide.
Chief Nursing Officer Terri Poe at UAB Hospital said there are about 4,000 nursing positions, but the hospital system, like many across the U.S., are seeing vacancies in all areas.
“Our nurses really focus on providing high quality, safe care for every single patient, every single time. What we need is more nurses to come in and help us provide that care,” Poe said.
Pre pandemic, UAB was operating at a 9% nurse vacancy rate – but added programs and units combined with COVID has brought that rate up to 14%. This is lower than the national average of 18.7%, according to Poe.
“A lot of nurses left the bedside for reasons that were really out of their control,” she said. “Having to assume the role of a family member became so difficult because we really respect and need our families who know our patients the best to be part of our healthcare team.”
Across the state, the Alabama Hospital Association said the pandemic has made some nurses decide to get out of healthcare, but traveling nurses also play a role in the shortage – as they get paid at a higher rate.
“We continue to deal with critical staffing shortage, in fact we’ve had some hospitals who had to close some lines of service because they simply don’t have the staff to man them,” Williamson said.
Williamson said based on the way Alabama hospitals are paid and the fact that the state has the lowest Medicare rate reimbursement in the country, he said in turn that rate for nurses is then lower than other places, exacerbating the staffing shortage.
“We’re going to have to find new ways to recruit, retain and incentivize nurses to come to Alabama and to stay in Alabama,” Williamson said.
According to Williamson, the southern part of the state has been hit harder than Birmingham.
We also reached out to the Shelby Baptist Regional Medical Center and officials there tell us despite national shortages, they are recruiting nurses.
“We know it takes a special person to be a nurse, and we are committed to providing our nurses with an enriching and rewarding environment. We provide the resources, tools and support our employees need to serve our patients in the best way possible — so we can provide the right care, in the right place, at the right time, and do so with compassion.” —Spokesperson Shelly Weiss Friedberg said.
All hospitals have their own pipeline to recruit and retain critical staffing positions. You can find opportunities to work with either healthcare system on their websites.