UNMH, SRMC talk nursing shortage after COVID-19

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – For years, hospitals across the country battled staffing shortages in the middle of a pandemic.

Even after COVID-19 patient volumes dropped those with other conditions placed on the back burner began filling hospital beds.

“We have seen record numbers of patients, as well, as I know, UNM Hospital has seen record numbers of patients,” said Pamela Demarest, chief operating and nursing officer of the University of New Mexico Hospital and Sandoval Regional Medical Center. 

As facilities reach their limit, nurses have too. Reps with UNMH and SRMC say there are more than 6,000 available nursing positions statewide.

Many of those positions are with UNMH. 

“We’re always looking to hire qualified health care workers in the clinical and non-clinical settings,” said Alex Walker, project coordinator of UNMH talent acquisition. 

“We’re trying to think about everything in terms of what is a benefit for the health care workers,” said Demarest. 

For employees with UNM Health Care Systems, that can range from 100% paid health insurance to tuition reimbursement, scholarships for dependents and continuing education credits.

SRMC says a recent hiring event helped them fill a lot of positions, but there were no nurses. 

“We’re not alone in this situation, and so in a way, there’s a lot of competition with other health care systems, other hospitals, other states, and there simply is just not enough nurses for the patient demand,” said Walker. 

UNM reps saying it’s not hard to find someone qualified.

“But finding someone who’s willing to do it at our location is a little bit more difficult, and the most difficult thing is finding a person that could fit,” Walker said. “We’re trying to catch a broader net, we’re really trying to showcase the things that New Mexico and Albuquerque has to offer.”

SRMC’s rep told KOB 4 their number of traveling nurses is less than 10%, so they have a better ratio of travelers to local hires now.

With more nurses on board both hospital reps say they hope to grow their facilities and expand their services to accommodate even more patients.