Last month, I mentioned that the hospital where I work is bringing Philippino nurses in to fill vacant positions for less money than hiring Americans. There is more news on that front.
We have been short staffed for nearly three years. They have made up the shortfall by paying huge bonuses to get nurses to work extra shifts. They tried foreign workers. Still, they don’t have enough. Determined to save money now that the COVID funding has dried up, hospital administration announced on Saturday that there will be no more bonuses offered. Once the shifts that are already promised bonuses are paid out, they will be no more. Nurses who were making $2500 a day for working a 12 hour over time shift are now being asked to work the same overtime hours, but for $600-$900 each 12 hour shift.
I know that I was working 60 hours or more a week. I was making good money to do that, but now that the money has dried up, I am not working those kinds of hours for a fraction of the pay. No one that I know is willing to do that.
So now the entire staff of the ED is not taking any extra shifts. They are working their contracted hours, and that is it. Me? My contract says that I have to work 4 shifts a month. That is all I am doing. Everyone else is doing the same. So now the hospital is even more short handed.
Here is what was texted out to us this morning by the ED department head:
We know this week has definitely had its ups and downs already and we appreciate all the hard work done by everyone. While we all fight this same battle we still have patients who are expecting the best care we can provide.
Starting tonight through the weekend we could use anyone on any shift to assist your fellow team and patients.
Please any help is appreciated.
As if guilt tripping us will get us to work all of those extra hours for a third of what we were making before. I want to help my patients and coworkers, but at the end of the day, this is a financial arrangement. It’s business.
So now the hospital is getting desperate. A third of the ED beds were shut down today for lack of staff.
The hospital where I work can only fill itself to somewhere near 60% capacity because they don’t have enough nurses, and that was when people were working extra shifts for bonus money. That means that patients often stay in the ED until there is an open bed on the inpatient floors. Our ED is frequently more than half filled with patients on “admission holds” awaiting beds. Couple that with the fact that the ED is also short nurses, and you have a problem.
Picture a 50 bed emergency room. To staff a 50 bed ED takes 14 nurses, 4 paramedics, 4 general technicians, 3 doctors, a nurse practitioner or PA, a respiratory therapist, secretary, three registration clerks, two lab technicians, three radiology techs, and two janitors. Every shift.
Now picture that you only have enough nurses for 10 per shift. Now you can only handle 40 patients at a time instead of 50. Now also picture that you have 30 admit holds, taking up beds and waiting for an inpatient bed- some for more than 48 hours. Now you can only handle 10 patients because your staff is busy caring for holds. So the waiting room backs up.
This means you have people sitting in the waiting room for 4, 5, or even 6 hours as they wait for treatment. And all of that was happening before you cut off the bonus money.
Now instead of 60% staffed, you are more like 45% staffed. Instead of 10 nurses, you only have 7. Now picture that across the entire hospital. A 600 bed hospital with a 50 bed ED requires 100 nurses or more each shift. You only have 50 or 60. Now what do you do? There aren’t enough foreign workers to fill that many spots.
My hospital can’t be alone in this. Here is the warning: there is a potential collapse of health care coming. It takes 3 to 4 years to train a nurse to the point where they are licensed, and another 2 years or so for that nurse to be proficient enough in their job to staff an ED, even longer for places like the ICU.