How The Pandemic Has Shifted Priorities For Nurses

Some nurses retire, or look for better working conditions and pay. Some are eager to finish training and make a difference.
Posted at 6:21 PM, Sep 01, 2021

For some nurses on the front lines of our fight against COVID: exhaustion. How has the pandemic changed their work life?

"I know a lot of nurses on my unit, on other units, they're tired, they're overworked," said Maddie Wheitz, a UW Health Nurse in Wisconsin. "And I don't know how many will be able to make it through another surge."

The Milwaukee Journal reports the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Wisconsin is the highest since mid-January. And while demand for nurses around the country isn't slowing down, some have left the hospital floor.

"So we have the retirement, early retirement and then some just decide to leave nursing altogether and change fields and go into a different career path," says Sheila Castle, a pediatric nurse in Florida.

Shortages have also made traveling nursing positions more lucrative—some are making as much as $8,000 a week, filling temporary positions. As desperate hospitals clamor for help, overworked nurses seek better working conditions and higher pay.

COVID worsened already existing nursing shortages. And the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects we'll need another 1.1 million new nurses in 2022 to fill that need amid resignations and early retirements. Adding to the problem: nursing schools are turning students away—as many as 80,000 in 2019—because of a shortage of nursing professors.