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Nurses wanted: Minnesota, Iowa two of the states making changes to accommodate need

Iowa is allowing temporary, emergency licenses for new nurses who have met the state’s educational requirements but haven’t yet taken the state licensing exam. Some Minnesota hospitals are offering winter internships to nursing students to boost their staffs.

Posted: Dec 2, 2020 2:32 PM

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — U.S. hospitals slammed with COVID-19 patients are trying to lure nurses and doctors out of retirement, recruiting students and new graduates who have yet to earn their licenses and offering eye-popping salaries in a desperate bid to ease staffing shortages.

With the virus surging from coast to coast, the number of patients in the hospital with the virus has more than doubled over the past month to a record high of nearly 100,000, pushing medical centers and health care workers to the breaking point.

“Nurses are under immense pressure right now,” said Kendra McMillan, a senior policy adviser for the American Nurses Association. “We’ve heard from nurses on the front lines who say they’ve never experienced the level of burnout we’re seeing right now.”

Governors in hard-hit states like Wisconsin and Nebraska are making it easier for retired nurses to come back, including by waiving licensing requirements and fees, though it can be a tough sell for older nurses, who would be in more danger than many of their colleagues if they contracted the virus.

Some are taking jobs that don’t involve working directly with patients to free up front-line nurses, McMillan said.

Iowa is allowing temporary, emergency licenses for new nurses who have met the state’s educational requirements but haven’t yet taken the state licensing exam. Some Minnesota hospitals are offering winter internships to nursing students to boost their staffs. The internships are typically offered in the summer but were canceled this year because of COVID-19.

Methodist Hospital in Minneapolis will place 25 interns for one to two months to work with COVID-19 patients, though certain tasks will remain off-limits, such as inserting IVs or urinary catheters, said Tina Kvalheim, a nurse who runs the internship program.

“They’ll be fully supported in their roles so that our patients receive the best possible, safe care," Kvalheim said..

Landon Brown, 21, of Des Moines, Iowa, a senior nursing student at Minnesota State University, Mankato, recently accepted an internship at the Mayo Clinic in Mankato. He was assigned to the pediatric unit’s medical-surgical area but said he might come across patients with the coronavirus.

Brown's resolve to help patients as a nurse was reaffirmed after his 90-year-old grandfather contracted the virus and died over the weekend.

“The staff that he had were great, and they really took a lot of pressure off of my folks and my family,” he said. “I think that if I can be that for another family, that would be great.”

The University of Iowa’s College of Nursing is also trying to get graduates into the workforce quickly. It worked to fast-track students’ transcripts to the Iowa Board of Nursing so they could get licensed sooner upon graduating, said Anita Nicholson, associate dean for undergraduate programs.

Nicholson said the college also scheduled senior internships earlier than normal and created a program that allows students to gain experience by working at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City under a nurse’s supervision. Those students aren’t caring for coronavirus patients, but their work frees up other nurses to treat those who are infected, Nicholson said.

“The sooner we can get our graduates out and into the workforce, the better,” she said.

Hospitals also are turning to contract nurses who often travel from other states. But it's expensive, because hospitals around the country are competing for the same pool of nurses, driving salaries as high as $6,200 per week, according to posts for travel nursing jobs.

Doctors are in demand, too.

“I don’t even practice anymore, and I’ve gotten lots of emails asking me to travel across the country to work in ERs,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “I know that’s happening to a lot of nurses as well.”

The outbreak in the U.S. is blamed for more than 270,000 deaths and 13.8 million confirmed infections. New cases are running at over 160,000 a day on average, and deaths are up to more than 1,500 a day, a level seen back in May, during the crisis in the New York City area.

To make room for the sickest, hard-hit institutions are sending home some COVID-19 patients who otherwise would have been kept in the hospital. They are also canceling elective surgeries or sending non-COVID-19 adult patients to pediatric hospitals.

A hospital system in Idaho is sending some COVID-19 patients home with iPads, supplemental oxygen, blood pressure cuffs and oxygen monitors so they can finish recovering in their own beds.

The computer tablets enable nurses to check in with them, and the oxygen monitors automatically send back information that staffers watch to make sure the patients are OK. A St. Louis hospital system is doing something similar.

Across the U.S., hospitals are converting cafeterias, waiting rooms, even a parking garage to patient treatment areas. Some states are opening field hospitals.

But that does nothing to ease the staffing shortage, especially in rural areas where officials say many people aren't taking basic precautions against the virus.

Dr. Eli Perencevich, an epidemiology and internal medicine professor at the University of Iowa, said health care workers are paying the price for other people's refusal to wear masks.

“It’s sending everyone to war, really,” he said. “We’ve decided as a society that we’re going to take all the people in our health care system and pummel them because we have some insane idea about what freedom really is.”

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 455783

Reported Deaths: 6166
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin945441502
Ramsey40698749
Dakota33623354
Anoka31398368
Washington20579237
Stearns18111190
St. Louis14006251
Scott1221199
Wright11811107
Olmsted1083075
Sherburne831270
Carver705639
Clay660684
Rice624774
Kandiyohi558772
Blue Earth549533
Crow Wing490678
Otter Tail464968
Chisago460438
Benton423788
Winona394948
Douglas379766
Nobles374847
Mower374429
Goodhue358163
Polk330760
McLeod328647
Beltrami316148
Morrison314645
Lyon306139
Becker289439
Itasca287843
Isanti286143
Carlton284443
Steele279510
Pine270515
Freeborn254723
Todd233730
Nicollet230538
Brown218634
Mille Lacs215745
Le Sueur214416
Cass210824
Meeker201533
Waseca193316
Wabasha17483
Martin172026
Roseau166517
Hubbard151138
Redwood141327
Houston140314
Dodge13974
Renville138540
Chippewa133232
Cottonwood129118
Fillmore12778
Wadena120818
Rock112012
Aitkin111533
Faribault110116
Sibley11017
Watonwan10698
Pennington101016
Kanabec99818
Pipestone97223
Yellow Medicine95016
Murray9137
Jackson87310
Swift84718
Pope7485
Stevens7078
Marshall70415
Clearwater68814
Lake66415
Lac qui Parle66116
Wilkin63510
Koochiching60810
Lincoln4912
Big Stone4703
Unassigned43968
Grant4388
Norman4268
Mahnomen4167
Kittson37420
Red Lake3204
Traverse2623
Lake of the Woods1981
Cook1160

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312194

Reported Deaths: 4433
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk46975465
Linn18114279
Scott15900172
Black Hawk14123243
Woodbury13145181
Johnson1231752
Dubuque11651159
Pottawattamie9182115
Dallas910872
Story883538
Cerro Gordo474372
Webster473377
Warren461539
Sioux460457
Clinton459168
Marshall432262
Buena Vista397230
Muscatine396578
Des Moines395543
Plymouth353670
Wapello351798
Jasper333359
Lee326932
Marion310853
Jones275250
Henry269131
Carroll258934
Bremer250448
Crawford235824
Washington224133
Boone223517
Benton213950
Mahaska198637
Jackson195332
Tama190959
Dickinson189229
Kossuth180944
Delaware176536
Clay173021
Wright167624
Fayette166324
Hamilton162530
Buchanan162324
Winneshiek161020
Harrison158762
Hardin157831
Cedar155819
Clayton153949
Butler152324
Page148115
Floyd141936
Cherokee140327
Mills138517
Lyon137933
Poweshiek135424
Hancock132424
Allamakee131530
Iowa128022
Madison124210
Calhoun12379
Grundy122828
Jefferson122425
Winnebago122329
Mitchell117137
Louisa116430
Cass115343
Chickasaw113812
Appanoose113040
Sac112815
Union111723
Emmet111332
Humboldt107819
Shelby106427
Guthrie104624
Franklin103618
Unassigned10210
Palo Alto92611
Montgomery89224
Keokuk86426
Howard85919
Monroe82620
Clarke8199
Pocahontas78711
Ida76430
Davis70421
Adair69720
Greene6977
Monona68418
Lucas66910
Osceola65011
Worth6224
Taylor6009
Fremont5276
Van Buren50515
Decatur4994
Ringgold45511
Audubon4258
Wayne42021
Adams3023
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