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What’s behind Alabama’s nursing shortage?

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 8:45 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - There’s concern from hospitals across our state that we’re not only dealing with a surge in COVID patients but also a shortage of nurses.

The Birmingham Black Nurses Association and the Alabama State Nurses Association both said there is an ebb and flow to nurses’ availability every few years.

But both agencies said the current shortage of nurses in our state has more to do with pay than COVID.

“Nursing shortage, that’s something that’s reciprocal every three to five years. Sometimes we have nurses moving to research positions, nurses’ advocacy positions, or policy.”

President of the Birmingham Black Nurses Association, Alean Nash, said there is more demand for nurses now as more people are landing in the hospital with COVID.

It’s a nationwide issue, but Nash said the biggest problem in Alabama is keeping nurses.

“Other states are paying two to three times more than Alabama nurses are being paid so that’s a factor too,” Nash said.

“What’s to stop a nurse to going into a neighboring state, especially if they live close to a state line and coming back home to their families,” said President of the Alabama State Nursing Association, Dr. Lindsey Harris.

She said Alabama nurses are paid 8% lower than other southeastern states.

They’re also working alongside travel nurses who are paid even more for the same job.

“That is something that we do know that our nurses have truly raised voices about, and nurses are truly concerned,” Dr. Harris said.

She said the coronavirus pandemic has shined a light on several issues within the healthcare system, including the nursing shortage.

She said more will need to be done to recruit and retain nurses.

“It’s such a great profession and one of the things here in the state of Alabama we’re going to have to look at is our pay and make sure we have safe staffing for the nurses,” Dr. Harris explained.

She said this pandemic has put a strain on nurses, saying they are tired, but resilient and their passion for Alabamians is what keeps them going.

Dr. Harris said we all need to do our part to keep nurses and ourselves safe by getting the vaccine.

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