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Healthcare worker shortage could worsen if vaccine requirement for travel nurses continues, staffing agency says

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Staffing problems at some health facilities could worsen if vaccine requirements for travel nurses continue.

That’s according to staffing agency Dakota Travel Nurses, a major supplier of nurses to facilities across North Dakota.

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the state, the demand for healthcare workers — particularly nurses — is also climbing, but meeting this demand is proving difficult because of vaccine requirements.

That’s because some nurses like Sadie Haws are not willing to take the COVID vaccine.

“I don’t think that it’s fair. I don’t believe that they are listening to the nurses. It’s very interesting that a lot of us, including myself, in the healthcare but more specifically in long-term care, there’s a lot of us very hesitant about the vaccine and that should say something,” said Haws.

Haws adds up to 30 to 40 percent of the travel nurse population will not take the jab.

The CEO of Dakota Travel Nurses fears nursing shortages and burnouts could only worsen.

“We have done a lot of communicating with our nursing homes across the state and some have made it very clear if this vaccine mandate does go through that they will have to shut their doors because it will not be– if we are going to be losing 30-40% of our staff and they’re going to be losing 30-40% of their staff, that is not a good situation for the residents and getting the care that they need,” said Jamie Fleck.

Haws, who’s based in Mandan, has been active for 12 years now. She worries that that could have dire consequences for patients and residents who require their services to live comfortably.

“I am more worried about the residents. We are already in a nursing shortage and so for people with the power to not listen to our hesitancy and not accept our exemption, the residents and the patients are the ones going to be hurting and that’s what I am more concerned about,” said Haws.

Right now, nurses are allowed to decline the vaccine on religious or medical grounds, and the president of the North Dakota Nurses Association says that’s enough flexibility.

“There’s no secret that we’ve had a shortage of nurses in our state for a long time. Will this add to the problem? It will, we know that. However, I think it is one of those things we are going to have to work through. We will have to bring in more travelers and think outside the box to get through this crisis,” said Tessa Johnson, president of the North Dakota Nurses Association.

Major health and long-term care facilities across the state require staff to get COVID vaccines as another layer of protection despite the use of PPEs.

Data from the Department of Health show there are about 113 positive COVID cases between staff and residents of long-term care facilities.

Nurses who are refusing the vaccine want facilities to rethink vaccine requirements not only for the nurses, but for their residents who need them.

All three we spoke with say they’re hoping the state comes up with a solution soon that works for everyone.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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