Briefly

Nurses say their field is challenging and rewarding, despite workforce challenges

By: - May 9, 2022 4:54 pm

Registered nurse Lindsay Waldman, left, prepares to administer a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine to a 5-year-old at a Denver hospital as the girl’s father comforts her. (Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

LINCOLN — Nursing remains a rewarding job despite the workforce challenges facing the profession.  

That was the message Monday from a handful of nurses during a Zoom press conference about the annual commemoration of Nurses Week, May 6-12.

Stress caused by COVID-19, as well as earlier than expected retirement of some nurses, is contributing to a workforce shortage in the field. 

Nebraska is expected to be short 5,400 nurses by the year 2025, according to Jeremy Nordquist, president of the Nebraska Hospital Association.

Need to ‘retain who we have’

“We really need to invest in education in the long haul, but if we’re going to get through this workforce crisis, we’re going to have to retain who we have,” Nordquist said.

On Monday, a handful of nurses described the challenging but rewarding nature of the work.

Lacie Ferguson, a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at Bryan Health in Lincoln, described the “privilege” of caring for individuals in what may be a patient’s “darkest and most vulnerable time.”

Ben Garcia, a wound care nurse for Heritage Estates in Scottsbluff, said he switched careers to nursing later in life after after realizing how important it was to him to help other people.  

Nurses make a difference

“Nursing is a challenging profession. It is not easy,” said Kari Wade, the president of the Nebraska Nurses Association. “But it is incredibly rewarding. The difference nurses make is real.”

Nordquist said that the shortage of nurses and certified nursing assistants has run between 15% and 20% in some areas of the state in recent weeks. But, he said, some nurses are starting to return to full-time positions after working as “traveling” nurses during the height of the pandemic.

He said the Nebraska Legislature took several steps during the 2022 session to address the workforce challenges, including increasing funding for loan forgiveness programs and scholarships for those entering the health care field.

Allocating $60 million to the state’s community colleges is expected to increase training opportunities for health-care workers statewide, Nordquist added, and establishing a second state medical center in Kearney will also help.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. He started his career reporting for the Omaha Sun and later, editing the Papillion Times group in suburban Omaha. He joined the Lincoln Journal-Star as a sports enterprise reporter, and then a roving reporter covering southeast Nebraska. In 1990, he was hired by the Omaha World-Herald as a legislative reporter. Later, for 15 years, he roamed the state covering all kinds of news and feature stories. In the past decade, he served as chief of the Lincoln Bureau and enterprise reporter. Paul has won awards for reporting from Great Plains Journalism, the Associated Press, Nebraska Newspaper Association and Suburban Newspapers of America. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.

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