The Dichotomy of Understaffed & Furloughed Nurses During Coronavirus

By Luke Smith

July 10, 2020

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The Dichotomy of Understaffed and Furloughed Nurses During Coronavirus

As the Coronavirus continues to sweep across the world, vital healthcare workers are receiving the short end of the stick. Many are currently overworked and risking their lives as COVID-19 patients continue to overwhelm hospitals. But, unfortunately, despite the high number of patients needing treatment and care, more and more hospitals are furloughing nurses due to the economic crisis at hand, putting further strain on essential healthcare workers.

Today, as the healthcare industry desperately battles against the Coronavirus, it also finds itself in a rather stressful dichotomy that has completely changed the way of life as most healthcare workers know it. Many are left asking, “Why is this happening?”

Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

As nations across the globe desperately try to flatten the curve and prevent as many deaths as possible, it appears that even the healthcare industry is not exempt from being financially affected by the Coronavirus. For most hospitals, the Coronavirus has led to non-urgent patients being turned away to prioritize those in need of essential services. This gate-keeping has, in turn, caused a loss of profit leading to pay cuts.

Of course, like many parts of the internet during waves of online visitors, the healthcare industry may be able to rely on the help of digital services by gating users online. Gating sets up landing pages where people can sign up and be informed when they’ll have access to a product or a service, or sites may use a live ticker on their page to keep users in line and aware of which position they are in. By using online gating, hospitals can reduce the number of patients completely flooding hospitals by offering insight online into waiting times, availability, and so on. However, because of this new policy to turn away patients who have manageable symptoms in addition to the reduced numbers of elective surgeries, many hospitals have still furloughed healthcare workers who are considered “non-essential” at this time.

Other Concerns for the Healthcare Industry Post-Coronavirus

With all of that being said, there is another fear that has been brewing in the minds of nursing leaders since before this pandemic. As experts at Duquesne University point out, nearly one million nurses are expected to retire before 2030. That, accompanied with a growing aging population, means that more patients will be at a higher risk of obtaining deadly diseases such as the Coronavirus in the future.

While this nursing crisis was bound to happen at some point, the concern became a very real ordeal this year and at a much faster rate than the industry expected. However, there is still some hope in all of this. Nursing leaders and possibly the entirety of the healthcare industry are finding ways to learn from this situation. Duquesne University explains that there are some solutions for the healthcare industry to follow:

  • Developing millennial nurses: A new generation of nurses has entered the healthcare workforce, and utilizing their strengths and maximizing their talents can help with the strain and burden of understaffed facilities. 
  • Defining the scope of the nurse manager’s job: Overwhelming nurses in managerial positions with undefined responsibilities and overwhelming workloads can put unnecessary strain on veteran staff.
  • Ensuring nurse managers have appropriate skills and competencies: With increasing responsibilities and accountability during and after the Coronavirus crisis, education for leading nurses should help them better understand their financial, regulatory, and clinical duties.

Leaders in the healthcare industry are faced with some tough decisions outside of the current pandemic. However, as nursing leaders continue to learn from this, they can, in turn, teach new generations of nurses important skills they’ll need in the future.

How Do We Move Forward?

The Coronavirus has hit the world in a way that exposed just how unprepared many facets of our society are in the face of a pandemic. Despite the need for healthcare workers across the board, some feel the system has turned their backs on them.

The future of not only society but the healthcare industry as a whole is still so uncertain — and some are left wondering how it will ever recover. There is one thing that can’t be forgotten, though, and that is, that nurses and healthcare workers will always be essential and necessary to the well-being of the people and society. It will always be worth making them a priority. It’s time to figure out how to protect the livelihoods of the heroes who take care of the world.

Understaffed?

We hope during these times you are not finding yourself in the midst of having fellow nurses furloughed while you are still working understaffed. If you are in a situation where your hospital is understaffed while furloughing others please comment with recommendations or tips for others in the same situation.

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