Checking in on the status of nursing shortage in Mississippi

Published: Aug. 11, 2023 at 7:37 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -You expect there to be the space and staff to take care of you if you have a medical emergency. But as we’ve reported, there’s an ongoing shortage of those workers, meaning fewer beds available to staff at hospitals.

Hospitals large and small have struggled with staffing woes that were made worse by the pandemic. We checked in with Neshoba General on how staffing looks now.

“I think, in a lot of ways, things are the same,” said Neshoba General CEO Lee McCall. “We did a really good job over the last few years recruiting and really retaining the staff that we had, I’d say over the last year or so, activities going down in the hospital, particularly in some other areas, as well. So, we’ve had to get our staffing back in line. We still have a wing, and our hospital closed down. So, we’re limited in the number of patients which we can take care of in the hospital at this point.”

At the education level, they’re trying to replenish the pipeline, but the needs are ever-changing. The University of Southern Mississippi nursing school is working on partnerships with hospitals to try and combat some of those new grads leaving the state.

“There’s a turnover with those people that are reaching that retirement stage of their life,” described Dr. Arlene Jones, Director of USM’s School of Professional Nursing Practice. “And then I think the other thing is most probably particularly our nurse turnover, our new nurse turnover, that we’re not retaining them into in the field that, you know, they have been trained to be in. So, I think those things all contribute to our shortage that is happening right now.”

The legislature came up with a nurse retention loan repayment program, offering up to $6,000 for a maximum of three years to help Mississippi nurses pay off their student loans. It’s something they billed as a way to help hospitals and fill some of those staffing gaps.

“I think it’s too soon to be able to tell what or if any impact that might have,” added McCall. “But I sense it will. And it’ll be probably this time next year that maybe some of us can look back and see how many of our staff took advantage of it.”

The new loan repayment application is available to nurses who are in their first year of employment.

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