Shelby County hospitals face nursing shortage amid surge in COVID-19 cases

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As we start to see COVID cases once again rise, healthcare providers in the Mid-South say a nursing shortage is being put to the test.

Nikki Polis, chief nurse executive with Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, says there’s a list of reasons for the shortage.

“Like most hospitals across the country, we’re experiencing a nursing shortage, but that shortage really existed before the pandemic but the pandemic has just exacerbated it,” Polis said. “The biggest reason is just because the need is getting greater and greater as our population is luckily able to live longer lives and they need nursing care for a longer amount of time.”

She said right now at Methodist Le Bonheur, they’re doing a lot of things around retention and recognition.

“Messages all the time of thanks to our staff, regular communication, making sure that they know what’s going on in our organization,” Polis said.

“We’re constantly finding creative ways to support our team,” said Amanda Comer, director of Baptist Memorial Healthcare advanced practice providers. “Whether it be by placeable staffing, seasonal nurses, you know we have incentives in place for our current staff and then we also have incentives in place for recruitment right now we currently have a sign on bonus for nurses in areas of need.”

But while the work has times of diffculty, Comer says it’s rewarding.

“It’s an honor. It’s honor to be a nurse, it’s an honor to be able to take care of patients at such a vulnerable time. We quickly are able to connect with patients and family members,” Comer said.

Both nurses said one of the biggest ways the public can help staff at hospitals is to get vaccinated.

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