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Despite declining COVID cases, nursing shortage still a problem Kentucky leaders hope to solve

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Posted at 12:10 AM, Feb 22, 2022

COVINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky's top health care leaders met virtually Monday to discuss solutions they will bring to the governor's office to address an ongoing nursing shortage.

Carrie VanDerzee said 17 nurses and aides work three different shifts to help take care of the senior women living at Victorian Riverside in Covington 24/7. The retirement home's CEO said while the care has not changed, help is stretched thin.

"The hardest thing is if we need someone — like we have someone on vacation, or kid is sick, can't come in, scheduled PTO time off — if we call a short term staffing company, PRN on-call nursing, they don't have any employees," VanDerzee said.

She said some nurses have left for higher pay, but some just want out altogether.

"I think COVID has had a tremendous impact, because I think people have had to work a lot more than they normally would, and got really burned out," VanDerzee said. "I don't know what the correction is for all this."

The Team Kentucky Nursing Advisory Committee, a group of the state's top health care leaders, has been tasked with finding solutions.

"Many nurses, when they haven't been treated well, don't automatically flock to returning home," said Delanor Manson, CEO of Kentucky Nurses Association.

The group will present their ideas to the governor. Their first move is a marketing campaign geared toward recruitment.

"Even a campaign that can start at middle and high school level," said University of Pikeville Provost Dr. Lori Werth. "Drawing awareness that nursing is a profession and career pathway."

They're also talking about lowering the barriers in place to get more skilled workers back in the door and making sure students can easily transition to another nursing school if needed by streamlining prerequisites.

"We need pathways for the people who are EMTs, paramedics and LPNs to become nurses if they desire to do so," said Mary Bennett, director of WKU's school of nursing.

Scholarships, financial aid and other incentives were also discussed — anything to get nurses back to bedside.

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