November 19, 2020 – Hospitals in at least 25 states are critically short of nurses, doctors, and other staff as coronavirus cases surge across the U.S., according to the industry’s trade association and a tally conducted by STAT.
The staffing problems reflect the dramatic increase in patients. There has been an average of 157,318 new cases per day over the past week, according to the STAT Covid-19 Tracker — 74% more than two weeks ago.
Ultimately, there aren’t enough ICU nurses, in particular, to meet the need. Hospitals currently have 2,000 ICU nurse jobs open on Trusted Health, a company that connects travel nurses, who hop from job to job around the country, with hospitals.
In some places the situation is dire enough that severely ill patients have been transferred hundreds of miles for an available bed — from Texas to Arizona, and from central Missouri to Iowa.
Staffing shortages are a serious concern in multiple regions. ICU nurses, who typically oversee no more than two patients at a time, are now being pushed to care for six to eight patients to make up for the shortfall in parts of Texas, said Robert Hancock, president of the Texas College of Emergency Physicians.
In Ohio, some 20% of the 240 hospitals tied to the Ohio Hospital Association are reporting staffing shortages.
The American Hospital Association’s (AHA) vice president of quality and patient safety, Nancy Foster, said she’s heard from two dozen hospital leaders over the past two weeks, warning her of staffing shortages in states including Texas, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. 19 other states are also reporting shortages at a local level.