DC Nurses Say Staffing Shortages a Major Issue

More than 95% of nurses surveyed said staffing shortages have been a major issue in Washington, D.C.

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Nurses in Washington, D.C., are raising concerns about staffing shortages amid a nationwide strain on health care systems.

The District of Columbia Nurses Association, a labor union, released a survey of its nurses in which more than 95% of them said staffing shortages are a major issue in the workplace.

Nurses who took the survey also reported that their units had nursing shortages for more than one shift per week.

"Going to work every day on a 12-hour shift with not enough coworkers is a recipe for disaster for the patients," said Edward Smith, with the DC Nurses Association.

Smith said while it's not a new problem, it's getting worse.

"COVID certainly exacerbated the problem, but it's been an ongoing problem for years and years. Lack of recruitment … lack of proper retention," he said.

D.C. isn't alone in those issues.

A report the Maryland Hospital Association released in August warned of a critical shortage of nurses, citing that one out of every four hospital nursing positions is vacant. The Virginia Nurses Association has also called it a crisis.

"My two biggest concerns are patient safety, but also is the wellbeing of our nurses and our colleagues because there is, like, burnout and people get tired and frustrated working sometimes really long hours and the demand and the pressure of the job constantly working in an environment where we are short-staffed," said Erika Ventura Castellon, a nurse at MedStar Georgetown.

In a statement to News4, the District of Columbia Hospital Association acknowledged the shortage of nurses, saying:

"Hospitals across the country are reporting nursing shortages and DC is no different. DC hospitals are implementing aggressive retention and recruitment strategies to ensure the needed nurses are at the bedside. Retention and recruitment initiatives include compensation reviews, signing bonuses, and other benefits. When local recruitment efforts are not sufficient to meet staffing needs, hospitals and other health care providers may use staffing agencies to supplement current staffing to ensure that we are adequately prepared to care for everyone who walks through our doors. Patient safety and quality care are at the forefront of all our staffing and recruitment initiatives. DCHA and its member hospitals are active members of the Mayor's Healthcare Workforce Taskforce and are collaborating to ensure there is a pipeline of nursing and allied health professionals in the District to meet our health care needs."

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