Experts predict nurses will have the largest shortage of any industry in 2022

A six-page letter was submitted to the federal government on behalf of nurses across the U.S. explaining the pandemic’s “long term repercussions for the profession.”
Updated: Nov. 16, 2021 at 6:11 PM EST
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ATLANTA (CBS46) – Two years fighting the pandemic and America’s nurses are burned. Experts predict nurses will have the largest shortage of any industry in 2022, yet applications to nursing schools are rising. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing says enrollment in nursing programs increased six percent in 2020 from the year before.

A six-page letter submitted to the federal government on behalf of nurses across the U.S. says, “this severe shortage of nurses especially in high areas of COVID will have long term repercussions for the profession, health care delivery system, and on the health of the nation.”

However, local nurses say there is no shortage of burnout and depression.

“It tests your faith in a way,” nurse practitioner Janeen Baxter explained.

She told CBS46 Investigates that seeing death daily stirred a different kind of grief enough for her to leave her job this summer. She transitioned from the hospital and extended care facilities to now doing telehealth from home fulltime.

“It’s not only other staff having to working harder, it’s residents, their lives-- they’re not getting adequate care that they need and they deserve,” Baxter said.

“I think that continuous burnout. Working short-staffed, extra hours, taking care of extremely sick people, losing patients we didn’t necessarily lose that many patients in the past,” said Richard Lamphier, the Atlanta Nurses Association President.

Lamphier says they’ve learned of hundreds of recent resignations and early retirements across metro Atlanta. Many citing mental health concerns after previous pandemic patient surges.

“Literally on the emergency room docks, in the loading area, in the back of the ambulances being seen by the doctors or nurse practitioners there before they’re actually coming into the emergency room building because there’s not enough space,” Lamphier said.

“The managers call say ‘hey can you come in tomorrow,’ that’s when we say we really need the mental health day,” Lamphier added.

CBS46 Investigates found the national RN turnover rate jumped to nearly 20 percent in 2021, and here in Georgia there are at least 14 thousand nurse openings; ones that can be filled soon thanks to the boom of nursing students.

“I think with the pandemic, people shy away from health care now, but watching my friends and family work tirelessly, I’ve never felt more motivated and more excited to be in health care,” Baxter said.

From bachelor’s program to doctoral there’s been a 5.6 percent rise for nursing school enrollment. In a critical time where Lamphier explains help cannot come fast enough.

“I’ve been a nurse for over 35 years, and I’ve been through a lot of crisis from the Olympic Park bombing to the AIDS epidemic. I’ve never seen it like this before from a nursing shortage perspective,” Lamphier said.