Nurses speak to staffing shortages, burnout amid pandemic


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — There’s been more help-wanted flyers for positions in the area of nursing and health care.

The VA Finger Lakes recently sent out a flyer asking for nursing assistants. Timberly Shepard MSM RN CNE, with the VA says a nationwide staffing shortage is something they’ve anticipated, even long before the pandemic.

“Child care was an issue, school was an issue, so people really had to kind of change their lives to really meet the needs of themselves and their families,” she said.

Nurses are especially needed in their assisted living homes. It’s a shortage she says was bound to happen with the baby boomer generation growing older. The pandemic is exacerbating it.

“There’s over a million nurses who are older than 50 years old. So that means within the next 10 to 15 years one third of our work force is going to just disappear,” said Shepard.

She says as a result, a Bureau of Labor statistic shows employment opportunities for nurses are projected to grow at a faster rate than ever in the next five years.

Deborah Stamps is a nurse with Rochester Regional Health, also experiencing this shortage.

She says another major contributing factor to this is burnout.

“Because of just the stress of caring for very, very sick people,” said Stamps.

She says staff feel the effect of the shortage,12 hour shifts can turn into 14 or 16 hours.

“They get emotionally and physically exhausted, when you think about caring for very sick people,” she said. “Not only a shortage of nursing personnel but some of the support services, maybe you don’t have a receptionist to answer the telephone.”

Stamps says at Rochester Regional they’ve been working on a growing pipeline for nurses through THE Isabella Graham Hart School of Nursing, which has expanded this past year.

As for the VA of Finger Lakes, they say a year long orientation program to help transition recent grads into the practice is helping with retention and better mental health.

These nurses say a lot of students also missed out on a traditional clinical experience due to the pandemic, setting them behind.

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