Why Alamance County is seeing a critical nursing shortage

Piedmont Triad News

(WGHP) — If you have gone to an emergency room lately you may have experienced longer wait times.

“When I got diagnosed with COVID I was over here three hours, when I came over by rescue unit, I was over here 10 hours, so I don’t know how long I’ll be over here now,” Wendy Hinshaw said.

Hinshaw arrived at the Alamance Regional Medical Center Emergency Room Tuesday afternoon a little apprehensive.

“I mean the waiting rooms are unreal,” she said.

“I think the COVID-19 pandemic has just exacerbated what we have already been seeing, especially smaller areas like Alamance County or Alamance Regional Medical Center,” said Kenneth Rempher, chief nurse executive of Cone Health System.

Rempher said Alamance Regional Medical Center has 27 vacancies.

With the continued surge of the delta variant, nurses are doubling up on duties, shifts, and hours, causing some nurses to retire early.

“There are nurses leaving the profession because they were close to retirement anyway and the current situation has put them at that point where they have decided to spend their final years of nursing doing something else out of direct patient care,” Rempher said.

Alma Thompson, head of the nursing department at Alamance Community College, says she feels a lack of nursing faculty is part of the problem.

“The faculty is not there because they are also leaving the field. It’s making it difficult across the state to find qualified nursing faculty,” she said.

A dozen nursing students are set to graduate at Alamance Community College in December. Thompson hopes it helps with the shortage so patient care is not affected.

“That would be a concern for me is that patients could die, or not be treated, or not be seen,” she said.

The Alamance County Health Department sent a statement saying public health must compete with other private agencies for available nurses in the workplace. This makes things tougher as the salaries can be higher and bonuses are offered.

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