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'Nurses are in trouble.' Health experts say Michigan nurses are overwhelmed, walking away from field

Posted at 1:15 PM, Aug 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-30 19:55:22-04

(WXYZ) — Positions are open, but where are the nurses? The problem is twofold—schools and institutes are struggling to find experienced nurses to teach incoming students, and hospitals are essentially a revolving door—-nurses who feel underappreciated, unsafe, or burnt out, keep walking out on the job.


The Abcott Institute is preparing to welcome 72 future nurses into the classroom come fall. Stepping into healthcare during a pandemic may be daunting but for most, it's a calling.

"I knew this is what I signed up for, so I don't have any concerns," said nursing student Sascha.

Making sure they have what it takes is Anne Loehnis's job. Lately, her most difficult task is finding experienced faculty to join her.

"When COVID hit, I think a lot of the older nurses were maybe more susceptible than the younger nurses, were frightened off and I don't blame them," said Loehnis.

Nurses are walking away from the healthcare profession altogether. According to the 2021 National Health Care Retention and RN Staffing report, 93 percent of all nursing hospital separations are voluntary, meaning they either quit or resigned.

NSI National Health Care Retention Report by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit on Scribd

Among the top five reasons are retirement and staffing shortages.

"Historically, we have not paid attention to the concerns of nurses and COVID has blown that up. It's very clear that nurses are struggling, and if nurses are struggling, then our loved ones are going to struggle in the hospital," said Dr. Christopher Friese, a professor of Health Management and Policy at the University of Michigan School of Nursing.

Brenna Tressider is one the 137,000+ nurses in Michigan still hanging on. For her, it's by a thread.

"I have anxiety going to work, I have trouble getting out of my car to go into work not knowing what I am walking into," said Tressider.

Tressider works 12 hours shifts, and on busy days, she's responsible for four patients.

"We feel like robots, 'here's your medication, here let me listen to your heart and your lungs, and then you're not going to see me for three hours,' you know that's not who we are," she said.

According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, more mistakes are made after the 8th hour of a nurse's shift; it's something Loehnis warns her students about.

"If you feel totally unsafe or unprepared you need to speak up and let your nurse manager know," said Loehnis.

Hearing nurses' concerns is one thing, but actually acting on them is another.

Dr. Friese said female nurses are two times more likely than the general population to die by suicide. And that study was done in 2019.

"Nurses are in trouble. I want to remind folks that nurses were in trouble before the pandemic," said Dr. Friese.

There is no quick fix to the problem but the Henry Ford Health System is trying to address the crisis, and hopefully improve retention rates.

"We are working together as health systems and individually to get creative and get some of the individuals that just we were very tired and needing a break to take a sabbatical versus a retirement and perhaps consider coming back after a couple of months off," said Bob Riney.

The takeaway is more safeguards and more empathy according to Tressider because burnout is impacting more than just the nurses.

"You never know when it's going to be you or when it's going to be your mother or your family and we want to give everyone the care that they deserve," she said.

Hospitals in metro Detroit have hundreds and in some cases thousands of open positions right now.

To apply, go here.