Charlie Norwood nurses rally to tell public about staffing crisis

Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 1:53 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Registered nurses at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta joined thousands of other members of National Nurses United holding demonstrations Thursday.

The local nurses gathered Thursday morning outside the Charlie Norwood downtown location.

They said they want the hospital industry to end their profession’s staffing crisis by providing safe numbers of nurses to care for patients.

It’s an issue many hospitals are facing across the nation. Nurses are experiencing burnout and mental exhaustion from working mandated overtime shifts and carrying the weight of short-staffed hospitals.

In her decade as a nurse, Jackie Williamson says she’s never seen those problems loom as large as they do now.

“We work hard every day. We wipe the sweat offer back and sometimes the tears from our eyes when we get home, and we are mentally exhausted. But we do it because we love what we do. And we especially love our veterans because they deserve really high-quality care,” she said.

The demand for health care services has gone up, but nurses are not being hired at a fast enough rate to keep up with the need.

Irma Westmoreland, union president said: “Our nurses are taking six and seven patients sometimes. That means that we don’t have enough time to sit with our patients who might need to talk with us just to spend a few minutes chatting. Or that patient who needs pain medication might have to wait.”

NNU nurses claim this winter’s surge in RSV, influenza, and COVID patients resulted in crisis conditions because of a decades-long campaign by hospitals to decrease inpatient beds, particularly in pediatric units and units deemed less profitable, and short-staff units to maximize profits.

Robin Jackson with the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center says nursing is the backbone of the healthcare system. He tells us they work daily to fill positions and fully staff the hospital units.

“We’ve been holding hiring fairs and bringing nurses into organizations. We have done salary adjustments to make sure that our nurse staffing and salaries are comparable to the community. We’ve given bonuses and raises,” he said.

To combat the staffing crisis, the Department of Veterans Affairs Augusta Health Care System will host a hiring event from 8 a.m. to noon on Feb. 25 at the uptown campus, Room 3B125, 1 Freedom Way.

Positions are open in VA Augusta’s long-term care residence and spinal cord injury unit. Jobs include registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, health technician, and nursing assistant.

New nursing graduates and experienced nursing professionals are encouraged to attend. VA nursing leaders will conduct on-site interviews for qualified candidates. Bring several copies of an updated resume.