Staffing shortages across the healthcare profession has long been a problem, and it is consistent globally. As in all inpatient healthcare settings, patient safety is a crucial concern and prevention goal in Behavioral health. Behavioral health departments must consider safety on many fronts, patient self-harm, patient to patient harm, and potential staff injury. Despite the optimistic projections of a 15% increase in the Registered Nurse health profession between now and 2026, there will still be a deficit of nurses to make up for the retirees and meet the demand of new positions created (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2019). Even before the event of COVID-19, a few factors affected the nursing shortage to include the Affordable Care Act, the large and aging Baby Boomer population creating more demand as they are living longer with more chronic conditions. Now, more than before, COVID-19 is the state of our economy, and how well it will recover is affecting the nursing shortage (McMenamin, 2020).
So, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the consequences of staff shortages are expressed much more, especially in settings with greater numbers of people inflicted with COVID-19. Specifically, nursing homes are routinely understaffed to meet the population’s needs based on the ever-changing acuity in the aging population. In current conditions surrounding COVID-19, the need for social distancing and impeccable hygiene, and policing of residents to help control the transmission of the virus, staffing shortages only hinder prevention (McGilton, et al., 2020). Nurses and nurse assistants are the frontline caretakers in most settings and the most familiar with their patients, so it stands to reason that the most indispensable persons are at the most significant risk along with the patients in their care when staffing shortages inhibit necessary protocol for prevention to occur (McGilton, et al., 2020).
Now, COVID-19 has contributed to increased mental health-related admissions due to various resultant conditions of being isolated, newly unemployed, or fear-stricken about acquiring the virus or losing loved ones to the virus (Chiappini, Guirguis, John, Corkery, & Schifano, 2020). Again, the most indispensable personnel during this crisis has been at the most significant risk by sheer proximity to persons who contract the virus. Unfortunately, that reality has contributed to a further shortage of needed personnel in all healthcare settings. Nursing staff that works in these settings suffer the stress and strain of working under conditions in which one’s health is threatened daily due to the lack of necessary personnel and other resources needed to do the job properly begin to wear down and burn out the healthcare professionals (Chiappini, Guirguis, John, Corkery, & Schifano, 2020).
Finally, since the occurrence of COVID-19, BayCare organization, like many others, immediately began limiting the hours of operation in a variety of non-essential departments and organized dedicated COVID units in preparation for the inevitable influx of infected persons. The unfortunate need for restriction of services did have an economic impact on the company and its employees; however, it also encouraged persons to opt for vacation and paid time off away from the high-risk environment during the acute phases of the pandemic outbreak in the community. Employees who fit the highest risk categories were encouraged to take the highest precautions to preserve their health and stay away from work environments that provide the most significant risks. For persons that work in non-essential departments with limited hours are provided options to work relief in the other high demand departments that unavoidably suffered shortages and heavy patient loads related to the rapid spread of COVID-19.
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2019, April). Fact Sheet: Nursing Shortage. Retrieved from https://www.aacnnursing.org/Portals/42/News/Factsheets/Nursing-Shortage-Factsheet.pdf
Chiappini, S., Guirguis, A., John, A., Corkery, J. M., & Schifano, F. (2020). COVID-19: The hidden impact on mental health and drug addiction. Frontiers in Psychiatry Addictive Disorders(11), 767. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.00767
McGilton, K. S., Escrig-Pinol, A., Gordon, A., Noguchi-Watanabe, M., Wang, J., & Bowers, B. (2020). Uncovering the devaluation of nursing home staff during COVID-19: Are we fuelling the next health care crisis? The journal of post-acute and long-term care medicine, 21(7), 962-965. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2020.06.010
McMenamin, P. (2020, August 31). Nurse hiring outlook and industry trends: 10 questions for ANA’s health care economist Peter McMenamin, PhD. (A. N. Association, Interviewer)