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(WGHP) — As COVID-19 cases continue to decline, some nurses say they’re beginning to feel the effects of pandemic burnout.

“As a nurse, we seem to put other people first and put ourselves second and it can lead to burnout of the clinical staff,” said Schquthia Peacock, who serves as chair for the North Carolina Nurses Association Council of Nurse Practitioners.

“February or so I considered kind of hitting a wall, emotionally drained,” she said.

Peacock explained more nurses are choosing to retire earlier. Others have accepted travel assignments or moved closer to family.

Audrey Snyder is the associate dean for experiential learning at UNCG’s School of Nursing. She said undergrad prelicensure and RN to BSN programs are still competitive, but fewer students are applying.

“What we’ve seen is the mental health stressors and family stressors that have been associated with the pandemic, and although we had a nursing shortage before the pandemic what we see is that regions have a much greater nursing shortage now,” Snyder said.

She hopes two new university grants will help attract and retain more nurses. One is focused on furthering education for students interested in maternal health.

The other grant will help further education for 14 students.

“This is a program that is to increase the number of minority and underserved students that would continue on as a nurse to have an advanced degree,” Snyder said.

The pandemic may have stretched some nurses to their max, but Snyder believes it may inspire future health care workers.

“After the World Trade Center incident, more young people wanted to become a firefighter or EMS, and so my hope is that after this large pandemic there will be more young people who say I have a caring heart I want to be a nurse who will go into nursing,” she said.

A spokesperson for Novant Health said the system has a number of plans in place to make sure shortages do not impact patient care, including float pools and other staff sourcing.

A spokesperson for Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center says they actively partner with universities to work to reduce nursing shortages.

Spokespeople would not provide the number of nurses needed for any Triad health system.