Oklahoma nursing organizations are calling on Gov. Kevin Stitt to take action to help with "moral distress and exhaustion" among their ranks as COVID-19 numbers continue their staggering climb.
In a Nov. 9 letter, the Oklahoma Nurses Association and Oklahoma Organization of Nurse Executives ask the governor for help with an ongoing staffing shortage, as well as for a mask requirement for all Oklahoma counties with a COVID-19 case rate greater than 1.43 per 100,000 population. Currently, all 77 counties in the state are above that metric.
"Nurses are serving in extraordinary times in which they face death and acuity unlike anything experienced before," the letter reads. "However, they come to work to deliver on the profession that most deem a calling. Other states have faced shortages of nurses and experienced a surge in COVID-19 patients. They are offering high rates of pay and incentives that create a disruptive labor market in which it’s extraordinarily difficult to compete for nurses. We are experiencing an exodus of nurses leaving the profession due to moral distress and exhaustion. The COVID pandemic exacerbates Oklahoma’s existing nursing shortage when our community needs nurses more than ever."
"Hospitals are struggling to maintain staffing models especially as they shift to surge staffing plans. Patients are at serious risk without enough nurses to care for them. If we fail to address this, outcomes will inevitably be affected. As a state, it is imperative that we work together with a goal that all Oklahomans receive the care they deserve for COVID and non-COVID related health issues," it continues."
Steps the groups suggest include crowdsourcing efforts for nurse staffing, the development of a marketing campaign to attract nurses from outside Oklahoma, use CARES Act funding to pay nurses, and allocating more resources to academic nursing programs to produce more nurses.
Jane Nelson, the Oklahoma Nurses Association CEO, said as of Monday morning, they had not received a response from Stitt. The governor's office did not respond to a request for comment from Public Radio Tulsa.
Read the full letter here.