St. Louis hospitals see surge in nursing vacancies

The percentage of vacant nursing positions at St. Louis-area hospitals has risen sharply since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and presents significant concerns for staffing and patient care, according to the Missouri Hospital Association.

The association collected data from 33 hospitals in the St. Louis and Metro East area in 2021, and from 35 hospitals the previous year.

He revealed that registered nurse vacancies in the metro area increased from 11.2% in 2020 to 20.3% in 2021, when hospitals ended the year with 3,681 registered nurse vacancies. Hospitals have also seen their turnover increase.

In Missouri, vacancies for staff registered nurses rose to 19.8% in 2021, the highest rate since the hospital association began reporting 21 years ago. Missouri has 33,692 nurses working in hospitals, but 8,334 vacant nursing positions.

The report notes that nurses were quitting their jobs before the pandemic. But the virus, competitive salaries in agencies and the desire for a different place to work have led many people to quit their jobs in the past two years. These departures posed challenges for the nurses who stayed on.

“Turnover affects the culture and pace of an organization, but these vacancies put a lot of pressure on the workforce currently employed,” said Dave Dillon, vice president of public and media relations for the association. hospital.

“It also deals with all the different things that have happened over the last two years,” Dillon said. “So they’re under a lot of stress and they’re taking shifts and/or working for the people that we really need but can’t find.”

Jobs for certified respiratory therapists, medical laboratory technicians, licensed practical nurses and surgical technicians were the toughest positions to fill for hospitals in the St. Louis area.

The report found that having fewer nursing educators in universities is contributing to the shortage of nurses, as some schools do not have enough faculty to accept qualified students. He notes that more than 10,400 nursing students were enrolled in nursing schools across the state in 2020, but nursing schools turned down nearly 1,300 qualified applicants that year.

University of Missouri-St. Dean of the Louis School of Nursing, Roxanne Vandermause, said the pandemic has brought to light staffing issues that have existed across the country for years.

“Nursing retention has been an issue over time,” Vandermause said. “The pandemic has certainly affected nurses, and it has affected hospitals in ways that may have exacerbated future problems.”

Vandermause said the pandemic, retirements and departures from the field have all contributed to the shortage. She said it was essential for nursing schools to focus on educating nurses and encouraging them to continue their education throughout their careers and to teach future nurses.

“We want to start from scratch, educating young nurses to look beyond and recognize that there is a trajectory, an educational trajectory available to them if they choose to follow it,” Vandermause said.

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