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S.C. hospitals battle with ‘highly concerning’ nursing shortage and lack of educators

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 7:44 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Nurses are in short supply in South Carolina and healthcare providers say that problem will likely get worse over time, causing a decline in patient care.

“We’re going to have fewer beds available in the hospital because there’s not enough nurses there, fewer beds in the ICU for whatever patients are in there… a lot less patient care in general,” said Katrina Haynes, RN, a health science instructor for high school students across SC.

The nursing shortage isn’t new, providers say, but it is impacting patient care as hospitalizations have risen in the past 18 months due to COVID-19. This year, nurses say hospitalizations for other illnesses have just added stress to the already overwhelmed hospital systems.

“When I came to South Carolina in 2017, I noticed we were already having issues, so that was very real. And then add to that a pandemic that’s been with us for over a year, and you have the recipe for the need of more nurses,” says Maria Calloway, Chief Nursing Officer at MUSC Columbia and Northeast.

Data from the University of South Carolina’s College of Nursing shows that by 2030, SC will be ranked 4th among states in terms of nursing shortages. Part of the problem, nurses say, is the lack of nursing instructors.

It’s not a lack of nursing school applicants, providers say, but it’s a lack of instructors.

“We’re limited by the number of faculty, we’re limited with clinical placements. To think about we’re fourth in the nation to have the worst nursing shortage, it is highly concerning,” says Sheryl Mitchell, DNP, Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies and Assoc. Professor at the UofSC College of Nursing.

UofSC College of Nursing reports that 54% of nursing instructors in the state are above 50 years of age and SC loses an average of 60 educators per year, either due to retiring or leaving the field.

To keep nurses and instructors in the healthcare profession, VP of Workforce and Member Engagement at the SC Hospital Association Lara Hewitt says we must create a supportive and respective environment for nurses.

“They’ve invested in us, so we need to figure out how we can invest in them to be able to provide the additional staff support to help them do their jobs and help them do their work,” said Hewitt.

The SC Hospital Association plans to partner with state leaders and educators to come up with concrete solutions for the nursing shortage as soon as the pandemic lets up. Hewitt says creative plans are needed to fix the many issues at play.

“We can kind of begin to circle the wagons a little bit and figure out, ‘How do we go from here?’ and ‘What do we need to do to support the nursing profession?’ because we need to get these other nurses in to be able to work in the hospitals,” said Hewitt. “We need to be able to support the ones that are already there. They’ve invested in us and so we need to figure out how we can invest in them to be able to provide the additional staff support to help them do their jobs.”

Until then, nurses say we all need to come together to make the jobs of healthcare professionals are welcoming, respectful, and supportive.

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