CHARLOTTE, NC – A shortage of nurses in North Carolina is only getting worse. A new report details how numbers are likely to continue to decline for the next decade, which has industry leaders concerned about the level of care the public can expect.
“I like the patient care aspect of it. We’re really close with our patients,” said Enrique Caballero.
He served as a medic in the Army National Guard for five years. He’s now nearing graduation from UNC Charlotte’s nursing program.
“There is a lot of us who are ready to go and help out as many patients as we can,” said Caballero.
Enthusiasm from applicants to the nursing school is at an all time high, but acceptance into programs is stagnant.
“There is not enough faculty. Faculty who are retiring. We have faculty who, because of Covid just decided to retire,” explained Dr. Dena Evans, the Dean of the UNC Charlotte School of Nursing.
She says they’re allotted about 240 students a year, but can only take on half that due to the number of faculty.
“We turn away a huge number of qualified students every semester because we don’t have those resources,” said Dr. Evans.
This creates a gap in the personnel pipeline. Nurses are leaving the profession in record numbers and their spots aren’t being quickly filled.
“There is a tremendous amount of burnout. And maybe some disillusionment. And just people re-prioritizing and wondering if that’s what they want to continue to do,” explained Evans.
According to data from N.C. Nursecast, pre-pandemic numbers indicated a shortage of 12,000 nurses by 2033. The Charlotte area is currently short a couple hundred nurses.. That number is expected to grow to more than 3,000 shot by 2033.
“The time to act is right now. We don’t need to wait,” explained Meka El, the President of the North Carolina Nurses Association.
She says state leaders need to work on ways to incentivize nurses to go into teaching as well as find creative ways to retain nurses on the floor.
“We want to make sure that we’re delivering safe quality care. So we need to have a continual pipeline of nurses. So it is a big deal,” said El.