Letter: Health care workers need their own ‘rapid response’

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Editor:

One in 10 COVID-19 cases in the United States is in Michigan as positive cases reach an all-time high throughout the state. This surge is causing an almost unmanageable strain on health care workers, both personally and professionally, causing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to call on the federal government to send additional medical teams to help relieve them.

The recent spike, and the anticipated increase in cases due to the Omicron variant, is further compounding an ongoing nursing shortage, which has exacerbated burnout and compassion fatigue among nearly all health care professionals in Michigan. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nursing shortage is anticipated to reach 1.1 million by next year.

With the demand for nurses on the rise, the currently employed frontline workers are in desperate need of support. Inside the walls of a hospital, nurses and doctors are familiar with the term “rapid response,” which refers to when a patient’s condition is quickly deteriorating and a specialized group jumps in to provide immediate help. Right now, our health care workers are finding themselves in need of a “rapid response” to ease the burden they continue to carry.

What we know is that hospital and state leaders in Michigan have options to revive our health care workers and repair the industry as a whole. While solutions to a crisis of this nature take time, there are certainly actionable steps that can be taken now, including reevaluating how hospitals deliver care and providing career advancement and accessible mentorship and opportunities.

Access to affordable and flexible education opportunities through a university or training at the hospital, is critical to retain and upskill talent. Newer professionals, which may include licensed practical nurses or medical assistants, more often are equipped to step in and support the doctors, respiratory therapists, etc.

Mentorship is another key component for the health care system, but the overall fatigue and staffing shortages have made it challenging for hospitals to identify qualified nurses to be preceptors, or nursing mentors who support our next generation of nurses by providing feedback, being open to questions and ultimately serving as a resource to help nurses excel.

Nurses and health care workers are essential to those in need, but they are in dire need of a rapid response. Fortunately, there are solutions that can ease these challenges so that these professionals can rest, recharge and come back in full force to continue healing those in Michigan.

Alison Bell

Regional vice president

Western Governors University

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