Natalie M. Powell, a licensed practical nurse from Miramar, left her job eight months ago to join a health care agency and has not looked back.
For years, he worked 60-hour weeks in rehabilitation and group home facilities. While his colleagues were fired, left for staffing agencies or completely quit the profession during the pandemic, he tried to fill the gap by working upwards of 80 hours a week. He considered quitting the profession completely.
“[You’re] stressed. Tired all the time, no matter how much you sleep, especially since you put in all these hours, ”he said. “It’s all about the patient. It’s not about your family or your children anymore-you’re caring for other people who are in trouble. … You’ve become arrogant.”
Today, she travels throughout South and Central Florida to fill temporary openings in health care facilities that require nurses from StaffHealth.com, her agency. She earns $ 6 extra per hour, is paid the same day she works and creates her own schedule, usually chooses to be with her kids during the week and work on the weekends, she said.
It is estimated that one in five health care workers quit their jobs during the pandemic, according to data intelligence firm Morning Consult. The Florida Hospital Association in October 2021 predicted a 59,100 nurse shortage in Florida by 2035 using pre-pandemic data. That number could be even greater.
Health care facilities throughout the Orlando area are trying new methods and technologies to fill the gaps.
AdventHealth has 266 vacant nursing positions throughout Central Florida, including openings for part-time and travel nurses, according to its website. Orlando Health has more than 600 nurse openings in the Orlando area, according to its website. HCA Florida Healthcare has a small presence in the region and has 27 openings, its website shows.
The Florida Hospital Association’s October analysis highlighted nursing education as an important area in need of improvement: many of Florida’s top nursing schools reject qualified applicants because they don’t have enough seats, a problem attributed to the scarcity of nursing teachers and lack of funding for expansion.
HCA Florida Healthcare, AdventHealth Central Florida and Orlando Health offer tuition fees, signing up bonuses, and opportunities for career growth to attract nurses from a limited group of graduates. Hospital systems are expanding collaboration with nursing schools and adding multiple clinical sites.
But adding new nurses is only part of the solution, said Teri Moore, nurse operations manager in Orlando Health’s critical care unit Dr. P. Phillips Hospital in Southwest Orange County.
“We have new nurses coming in and we hire like crazy,” Moore said. “But these nurses have no experience because a lot of that experience retired, or left, or burned. And so, experience is definitely something we focus on, trying to come up with ways to really keep experienced nurses on the bedside. ”
Matthew Mawby, co-founder of StaffHealth.com, said his company tripled in size during the pandemic. StaffHealth.com surveyed about 300 of its nurses who asked why they moved to work for an agency: 82% pointed to lower wages and 84% said their job duties increased, Mawby said. said.
Marissa Lee, vice president of the National Nurses United union and a nurse at HCA Florida Osceola Hospital, testified that hospitals are to blame for their lack of care staff.
Citing 2017 federal data suggesting that Florida will have a real 53,700-nurse surplus by 2030, Lee and his union argue there are enough nurses in existence to care for patients, but they are being fired from hospitals by asking them to work “unsafe” conditions in which each nurse cares for more patients than they can, over other responsibilities.
Burnout and fear are the issue, not scarcity, he said.
“They expect the nurses to not only perform their nursing duties but also include the host, the dietary, the secretary,” Lee said. “A lot of nurses during the pandemic left because they knew, ‘I can get a travel assignment. I can be somewhere in 13 weeks. If I don’t like that place, I’ll move on.’ ”
Staying may require creative thinking and a more radical shift in the nursing status quo. Lee advocated for continuity bonuses and mandated a minimum nurse-to-patient staff ratio, and other resources.
HCA makes recruitment and retention top priorities, said Peter Lindquist, division chief nursing executive at HCA Healthcare North Florida Division.
“Unions have their own agendas; I can only say ours, ”he said. “We care about our nurses and work to show them what we do to support them in and out of the workplace. … We will continue to promote a culture that puts the protection of our patients and the community first. our people no matter what the challenges the industry faces.
Together with AdventHealth and Orlando Health, HCA offers mental health resources and hires LPNs and patient care technicians, as well as staff of other specialists so nurses don’t have to work. jobs that can be done by another. Lindquist added that frontline workers help HCA make decisions, and this brings about changes in staffing models and technology. The system recently invested $ 50 million in its nurses, he said.
Orlando Health and AdventHealth are back to virtual care. Experienced, licensed nurses can communicate with staff or patients through the screen, and can perform any tasks remotely.
This could attract nurses back into the profession who are unable to work in person, said Linnette Johnson, chief care officer at AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division-South.
“There are nurses there, they are retired. And at their point, they’re like, ‘We don’t want to work 12-hour days, that’s some long days on our feet.’ But kid, they want a virtual nurse position, ”she said. “What I love about this fast -paced idea, whether it’s technology or whether it’s not in the thinking box, is that I think it expands the horizons for nurses.”
AdventHealth is piloting the service on its DeLand campus, where staff say it gives them more time to do tasks that can only be done in person and it improves patient safety.
The hospital doesn’t have any patients who have fallen for about two months because virtual nurses can call personal nurses if they see vulnerable patients trying to get out of their beds, Jun said. Baniqued, a nurse at AdventHealth DeLand, on Thursday.
“I think it’s the evolution of what the future holds for nursing,” Baniqued said. “Bedside nursing will not disappear, but it will be enhanced by technology – virtual nursing, robotics, everything. These are the things we should expect.”
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Now that COVID-19 is no longer advancing hospitals to their limits, nurses who left to travel are returning. Moore said nearly 10% of staff who left Orlando Health returned.
Another feature of many ways to maintain the health care system is to try to create a community that employees don’t want to leave.
Lindquist focuses on the charity activities of HCA Healthcare. For example, in December the nurses gathered to host a Christmas celebration for the foster children.
Lindquist said the nurses told her, “This is why I became a nurse, and that helped rehabilitate me as a nurse, restore my health, most of all.”
At AdventHealth DeLand, assistant nurse manager Jeffrey Wells said she visited as a travel nurse almost five years ago and decided to stay full-time.
“It’s nice to move around or whatever, but after a while, you want to find a core group of people you work with,” Wells said. “Here on the floor, we’re like a family.”