Texas

How the Nationwide Nurse Shortage Affects Central Texas

WACO, TX (KWTX) — Along with rising cases of RSV, influenza and COVID, a shortage of nurses in Central Texas has led to increased emergency room wait times at local hospitals.

After a pandemic that pushed healthcare workers to their limits, often working overtime in traumatic conditions, the nursing profession has never recovered since.

“Caring for very sick patients, watching a lot of people die, it was a very scary time,” Jack Frazee, director of government relations and general counsel for the Texas Nursing Association, told KWTX. “Especially at first, they didn’t have all the necessary protective equipment. So all this led to severe burnout and moral trauma.

According to the Texas Department of Health, demand for registered nurses is projected to exceed supply every year until 2032.

Frazee of the Texas Nursing Association says the answer to this problem is education.

“Unfortunately, we cannot find nurses out of thin air, we have to train them,” Frazi said. “So, this is a task for the state: adequately allocate funds for the education of nurses.”

While a sufficient number of students are still applying for nursing programs, one college in Central Texas is unable to keep up with the number of applications due to a lack of in-house staff.

“Hospitals started paying more for nurses because they needed nurses and that led to a shortage of teachers,” Tracey Cooper, head of nursing at Temple College, told KWTX. “When the hospitals increased those salaries, we lost departments that came back so they could increase salaries.”

But in spite of all this long working hours, lack of staff and sometimes underestimation Cooper, a nurse herself, says she wouldn’t have had any other choice.

“Nursing is a really wonderful profession,” Cooper said. “And although, you know, there are times when it’s hard, like during a pandemic, I’ve been doing this for 37 years and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

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