Facing a surge in COVID-19 patients, hospitals across the country have increased their bed capacities but may not have enough nurses to staff them, according to a blog post in Health Affairs by Joanne Spetz, PhD, a professor at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies
Spetz, who is also the associate director for research at the Healthforce Center at the University of California, San Francisco, suggests the following seven steps to increase the country’s nurse workforce:
- Use financial incentives to bring nurses to the most affected areas. This includes providing higher wages, extending loan repayment programs, and paying travel and housing costs.
- Have nurse licensing boards expedite license applications processing for nurses from other states or those who have retired and want to reenter the workforce.
- Relax scope-of-practice restrictions to enable hospitals to transfer more registered nurses to critical care. Also, relax state regulations regarding physician oversight of nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
- Deploy nursing students. Issue temporary registered nurse licenses to those scheduled to graduate this year. Students at earlier stages of their nursing education can screen patients or work as unlicensed assistive, if state law allows it.
- Have communities provide new child care options to nurses.
- Address nurses’ personal and emotional needs. For example, provide lodging options so that they can minimize exposing their families to the virus. Offering mental health and psychosocial support services can help prevent emotional and mental exhaustion.
- Ensure nurses have access to personal protective equipment. Improve access by deploying the federal government’s stockpile of medical equipment, have private companies donate their supplies, and have the manufacturing industry ramp up production.
Source: Health Affairs