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nursing

Members of the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United union protest what they refer to as unsafe staffing levels at St. Louis University Hospital in Midtown on Sep. 9.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

For the second time in three years, union nurses at SSM Health-St. Louis University Hospital are protesting what they call unsafe staffing levels at the Midtown hospital.

There aren’t enough employees at the facility, said representatives of the National Nurses Organizing Committee, which represents the nurses at the hospital. Nurses constantly have to care for more patients than they can handle. Long wait times mean patients can become agitated and violent, putting employees at risk, representatives say. 

New nurse Becky Boesch looks through files as part of her job as a nurse in the cardiac step-down unit at St. Luke's Hospital in Chesterfield.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri State Board of Nursing has approved expanding five of the state’s nursing programs, adding 250 slots for future students.

State officials say the move aims to help reduce nursing vacancies. The profession has one of the highest vacancy rates in the health sector, with 13 percent of positions unfilled in Missouri, according to the Missouri Hospital Association.

Nurse Jordan McNab attends to a patient in the cardiac intensive care unit at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On nurse Jordan McNab’s first day at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis in 2017, a patient stopped breathing. She had to immediately start giving him CPR.

“I vividly remember with my hands on a chest and going too fast,” she said. “You just can’t prepare for it.”

For many beginning nurses, the stress of a new job can be particularly acute. Dealing daily with life, death and illness along with normal new job strain can put them at risk of burnout during the transition from school to work.

To help new nurses deal with stress and keep them in the workforce, the region’s hospitals have developed nurse residency programs that focus on their well-being.

Medical assistant Raquis Tyler, Dr. Heidi Miller and nurse Cindi Boehm discuss treatment plans for patients at Family Care Health Centers in St. Louis.
File photo | Tim Lloyd | St. Louis Public Radio

Two years ago, registered nurse Amanda Sommer decided she had had enough. She was working as a bedside nurse in a large St. Louis hospital, floating among different departments and taking care of half a dozen patients for 12-hour shifts. Because of staff shortages, her manager often scheduled her to work both nights and days, and the lack of routine was wearing on her.

Sommer left that hospital in 2016 and worked as a home health nurse before leaving the workforce to start a family. She’s one of many health workers who have left their job in recent years. According to a report from the Missouri Hospital Association, health workers are increasingly leaving their jobs. Nearly 18 percent of workers in Missouri and metro east hospitals surveyed by the association left their jobs in 2017, up from 16 percent the year before.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 25, 2009 - With a faltering economy making tuition increasingly unaffordable, many college students face the prospect of having to cut back on classes to defer costs. This may not be necessary for some nursing students at Webster University, which announced last week its plan to distribute roughly $100,000 in scholarship and stipend money to current students.