With Covid-19 making a resurgence across the country, the Dallas area is being hit hard, and our medical systems are feeling the strain. Yet, amidst all of the changing recommendations from the CDC and the legal fights around mask mandates, medical staff continues to show up day in and day out to provide the best possible care to Dallas residents. In the meantime, local nursing schools and training programs are working as fast as possible to get new nurses out onto the front lines.
The School of Health Sciences at Dallas College has just under 540 nursing students currently enrolled, with 220 new students this year. Unfortunately, it takes between 16 months and two years for students to complete a nursing degree. So, many of those students will not be in hospitals any time soon.
And while schools are not suffering from a lack of students, they could get more nurses trained if they could find more qualified instructors. “We are constantly looking for nurses with master’s degrees in nursing or higher doctorates to teach in our programs. We could take more nursing students if we had more nursing faculty,” said Juanita Flint, vice provost of the School of Health Sciences at Dallas College.
Until more nurses can get certified and into the workforce, clinics and hospitals are offering incentives to try to attract and keep what nurses are available. “Folks that are being offered two or three jobs. I hear that the pay differential, if you are working COVID units, are 10, 20, 30 bucks an hour more on top of their salary, so the money is out there,” said Flint.
On Monday, Governor Abbot asked 2,500 out-of-state agency nurses to help supplement the current workforce. While every able body is a welcome relief, many fear it will still leave many hospitals short-staffed. “2,500 across the state of Texas is going to meet some of our needs, but it’s not going to be enough,” stated Maureen Padilla, senior vice president of Nursing Affairs for the Harris Health System. Last summer, at the height of the pandemic, over 14,000 out-of-state nurses were working in Texas.