COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates nursing shortage for WV hospitals


BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Forty years ago, Donna Knix decided to become a nurse. She said it was a much simpler time.

“You had patients, patient care, basic charting,” Knix said.

To Knix it was an easy decision choosing her career. Family members were nurses and it was just something she knew she wanted to do. But as she walked through her career, the job became more demanding.

“There’s so many more risk factors now. There’s stress, didn’t use to be stress. Smoking has always been there, but I think it’s finally caught up to us,” Knix said.

Health officials said people are living longer, but developing more illness as they age. The increase in patient care is a big factor that contributes to the nursing shortage that affects hospitals all over the country. Here in West Virginia, local hospitals constantly need more nurses.

Angela Rivera is Chief Nursing Officer at Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital.

“There are just a lot of patients for us to take care of, especially during a pandemic,” Rivera said.

The COVID-19 pandemic puts a strain on hospital staff. There are more patients, which means they need more nurses; nurses they do not have.

Rivera said her desk is not flooded with applications. More nurses are retiring and not enough students are graduating with a nursing degree.

“The nurses are also growing older and they are retiring at rates that we are not having new nurses come in and graduate school,” Rivera said.

But there is hope. Jordan Gray is a nursing student at WVU Tech. Taking care of an autistic family member led her to choosing this career.

“I actually really just want to help people in general. So, with growing up with him, and helping him, I figured, I think I got a good hand in it,” Gray said.

She said the pandemic will not steer her away. She is already on the front line helping with COVID-19 vaccination clinics, and even testing her peers and administrators for the virus. She said she is in it for the long run.

“It didn’t turn me off because we need someone to do it. Someone has to do it,” Gray said.

And for Donna Knix, she is retiring this year. She reflects on her career and she hopes others make the same decision that she made, just 40 years ago.

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