06Jun

Despite a nursing shortage that existed well before the COVID-19 pandemic turned it desperate, colleges are turning away tens of thousands of applicants to nursing programs.

An article by the nonprofit education news organization The Hechinger Report cites Long Beach (Calif.) City College as a stark example. The college this year accepted only 32 students out of 1,200 nursing applicants. Another California college accepted none.

COVID is to blame for worsening the situation by forcing schools to limit in-person instruction, substituting simulations and telehealth care for the clinical work required of student nurses.

Hospitals where students would normally get the hands-on clinical experience are turning them down, according to the report, because they are too busy to provide the training and can’t spare the personal protective equipment.

“It’s very shortsighted of them,” Sigrid Sexton, chair of the nursing program at Long Beach City College, told Hechinger reporter Matt Krupnick. “We’re very supportive of the hospitals’ needs to protect patients, but we’d like to see them be more supportive of students.”

Even when students are able to find a facility willing to accept them, many are required to buy their own personal protective equipment and pay for their own COVID tests.

“When you start putting extra costs on the students and the programs, that becomes a barrier,” said John Cordova, a nurse who directs California’s Health Workforce Initiative.

Problems with nurse training have been developing for years, notes the report. Faculty shortages kept many schools from increasing enrollment to meet the demand. Other schools had to limit enrollment even before COVID for lack of faculty.

Sharon Goldfarb, dean of health sciences at the College of Marin and a regional president of the California Organization of Associate Degree Nursing, said a third of the state’s nursing schools have lost faculty since March. The average age of those remaining is 62.

A key reason is the relatively low pay of teachers, especially when compared to practicing nurses. In California, the average annual pay for an experienced RN is $113,000. Indeed puts the average pay for junior college instructors in California at $65,748. The majority of nurses are trained in junior and community colleges.

Between the shortage of clinical opportunities and the lack of in-person teaching, educators fear many new graduates may not be sufficiently prepared.

“It would be naive to say, ‘Oh, no, this won’t affect them at all,’ ” said Renae Schumann, dean of the Houston Baptist University nursing school in Texas. “Yes, we all worry about it.”

Photo by Luis Melendez on Unsplash

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Green Key
Jun 6, 2023

Blood Banks Seeking Healthy and Recovered Volunteers

A Red Cross plea last month for blood donors averted what the agency described as a shortage so severe some hospitals were only days from running out of blood.

So many volunteers stepped forward that the Red Cross now deems the supply “adequate.” “We say that cautiously, because we don’t know what will come,” Paul Sullivan, senior vice president of the American Red Cross told the Washington Post.

Now, besides continuing to urge healthy people to give blood, hospitals and blood banks are asking those who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma.

In the tri-state area, the New York Blood Center and Mount Sinai Hospital have issued calls for recovered COVID-19 persons to donate.

“If you had #COVID19 and have recovered you can help save a life. Your blood may contain antibodies that fight the virus and can help critically ill people. Please fill out this form to see if you are eligible to be a volunteer: https://bit.ly/2vTHALk,” the hospital Tweeted.

Friday, the Food and Drug Administration approved plans to test two potential therapies derived from human blood. “These are called convalescent plasma and hyperimmune globulin and are antibody-rich blood products made from blood donated by people who have recovered from the virus,” the FDA said.

The FDA program supplements the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, an ad hoc effort organized by physicians and scientists across the country to investigate using convalescent plasma against the coronavirus. The project developed guidelines for using plasma and has detailed information for potential donors and Covid-19 patients.

Before the FDA acted, some of the researchers in the project were independently testing the antibody-rich plasma on a handful of seriously sick patients. It’s too soon to know the outcome, but initial reports suggest the therapy may be lessening their symptoms.

Using blood and plasma from recovered patients goes back more than 100 years. Before antibiotics, it was one of the only therapies available. It was sufficiently successful that it’s been used to treat other types of diseases such as SARS and Ebola. Though clinical studies of the therapies are few, a detailed analysis published in 2014 in The Journal of Infectious Diseases concluded, “Convalescent plasma may reduce mortality and appears safe.”

Meanwhile, blood banks across the country are looking to healthy, uninfected individuals to make up for the cancellation of blood drives, which provide about 80% of the nation’s blood supply. There’s still a need for blood, even though demand has lessened as elective surgeries are postponed and accidents and traumatic injuries have declines with fewer people driving.

At Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic, which conducted its own blood drive, emergency physician Baruch Fertel said that as long as donations continue, “We can stay out of trouble. But we’re not out of the woods. Folks who are healthy and recovered should consider giving blood.”

Photo by Testalize.me on Unsplash

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Green Key