PHOENIX — Arizona is seeing one of the worst health care staffing shortages in the nation, according to the White House.
The shortage is causing people in the Valley to face dire situations when visiting hospitals, Valley nurses said. Patients are experiencing treatment delays as a short-staffed nurse workforce tries to balance a much higher than recommended load.
“You take an oath," Phoenix nurse Jaretta Drasites said. “I will do everything for my patients that I possibly can, but there comes a point where I need help."
Drasites and her colleague, Lynda Campos, told 12 News they are often caring for more than six patients at a time which far exceeds their recommended 4:1 ratio.
They are spread too thin but say there's no other option.
“It’s hard to meet those demands," Campos said. "Physically, mentally and emotionally."
Drasites and Campos say they've watched colleagues leave the industry for a number of reasons, including extreme burnout and vaccine mandates.
Multiple Arizona health networks reported the same:
- Mayo Clinic announced earlier this month it fired 700 employees who refused the vaccine.
- Valleywise told 12 News it had vacancies for 470 full-time nursing positions in 2021.
- Honor Health acknowledged it had a higher turnover rate in general over the past year.
“You’re taught in nursing to prioritize from most urgent to least urgent and then you’re like okay I’m gonna do this and then as the day unfolds it’s just chaos," Drasites said.
A group of health care workers wrote a letter to state leaders in December warning of the impending staffing crisis saying efforts must be made to "stabilize, recruit, train and retain the healthcare workforce."
“Recently we have had to temporarily close some of our urgent care locations due to staff availability. This has resulted in longer wait times at the urgent cares that remain open," said Dr. Marjorie Bessel, Banner Health's chief medical officer.
In the letter, the groups called for hazard pay, something that was discussed at the federal level early on in the pandemic but never came to fruition.
Campos and Drasites say bonuses are being offered to nurses who take extra shifts but they want hospital groups to focus on rebuilding its core staff.
They are fearful the staffing crisis will worsen after March 15, the deadline the federal government has given healthcare workers to get fully vaccinated.
“You take an oath. And not an oath for money. You take an oath for safety. You take an oath for good patient care," Drasites said.
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