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Health care workers are exhausted across hospitals, nursing homes

Nurses and nurse practitioners were already dealing with unwanted overtime amid staff shortages – and then COVID happened.
Posted at 6:10 PM, Aug 06, 2021

April Kapu is president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. She says some of her exhausted members are now ready to quit. 

"Today we're seeing the nurses go back in and say, 'Oh my goodness, I thought this was over. I thought I was in the recovery phase,' and we're still in it," she said. 

Sophia Morris, vice president of account management at Aya Healthcare, said, "We're seeing a high level of burnout; hospitals are seeing their highest vacancy rate in several years."

Kapu said, "We're hearing nurses say, and nurse practitioners say, 'I can't do it again,' and so they leave for different types of jobs – some leave the profession entirely."

Kapu says RNs and nurse practitioners were already dealing with coworker shortages pre-pandemic. That meant unwanted overtime. Then the vaccines rolled out — and so did the skeptics. Some of those people flooding hospitals are now asking for the vaccine, but in many cases are too late.

"Being a critical care NP, I can handle a lot, but this has just been overwhelming," said Kapu.

The shortage of health care workers isn't isolated to hospitals. Some nursing home facilities across the country say they're also feeling the pinch, but for a different reason: workers with COVID, and some unwilling to get vaccinated.

Joseph Brown is the executive director of Savannah Court of the Palm Beaches. He said, "It's a selfish attitude to take, so I think it's more education and more dedication in the right direction." 

According to AARP, as of late June, nationally about 78% of nursing home residents have gotten a shot and are considered fully vaccinated. But only 56% of the health care staff can say the same.  

Nursing home operators want staff to get the shots, but some are worried that requiring workers to do that will end up with them quitting in an already tight job market. 

Mary Daniel's husband lives in a Florida care facility. She said: "They care about the elderly; they care about the disabled. And if that is truly the case, then to work in this environment – in an inpatient facility where there are residents – then you have to be vaccinated."

Kapu says the good news is that out of the association’s 325,000 members, 94% are vaccinated, and she says boosting the numbers and could be as simple as a talking to someone.

"So what we really need is to bring in more counseling, more ears to listen so that we can bring our very best selves to the patients that are there right now," Kapu said.

This story was originally reported by Tammy Estwick on