TUALATIN, OR (KPTV) - As the demand for hospital beds in Oregon continues to climb, so does the need for nurses, and skilled caretakers are getting tougher to find. 

“Our members are reporting really concerning situations in facilities across the state,” said Matt Calzia, a nurse practice consultant for the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) and a critical care nurse in Lane County.

Wednesday, ONA said it is hearing more reports of inpatient and critical care nurses now needing to take care of double or even triple the number of patients as hospitals start to feel the squeeze.

The Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Hospitals and Healthcare Systems Association said they don’t track nursing shortages or staff levels.

Job openings posted by traveling nurse agencies can provide some insight into Oregon’s situation. A popular company, American Mobile, has more than 250 nursing job listings in Oregon right now.

In Springfield, an open intensive care nursing position pays more than $5,000 a week.

Oregon hospitals struggle to fill nursing positions

Providence Health

“I think we are hearing early warning signs from hospitals in Oregon that they are having trouble recruiting (traveling nurses), particularly in rural areas,” said ONA spokesman Kevin Mealy.

In Portland, OHSU is struggling to staff nursing shifts due to a variety of pandemic-related reasons, including nurses who’ve left for childcare needs, as well as their own mental health or illnesses – and even due to the recent wildfires, according to a spokeswoman.

This month, OHSU has hired 31 traveling nurses and hopes to hire ten more, although recruitment is extra-competitive, as demand for skilled care soars nationwide.

Currently, the burden of taking on extra work falls on the shoulders of frontline healthcare workers who’ve already endured a tough year.

“What is that doing for our workforce? It’s going to burn them out. It is burning them out,” Calzia said.

It’s added stress in an already stressful field, and public health experts predict the worst is still to come.

In November, the Oregon Nurses Association partnered with the Oregon Nurses Foundation and Lines for Life to launch a program, including peer-facilitated virtual wellness rooms. The drop-in meetings are open to all frontline workers, including medical and behavioral health providers, social workers, home caregivers, educators and more.

The virtual wellness rooms are held weekdays on Zoom from 12:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

You can join at this link.

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