Frontline nurses and caregivers testify to staffing shortages, impact on care in subcommittee meeting

Frontline nurses and caregivers testified at the Dane County Healthcare and Public Health Workforce Needs Subcommittee Tuesday night.
Published: Jul. 5, 2022 at 9:19 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 5, 2022 at 10:29 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Frontline nurses and caregivers testified at the Dane County Healthcare and Public Health Workforce Needs Subcommittee Tuesday night.

The meeting was the subcommittee’s first hearing in an effort to address the workforce shortage crisis and promote the well-being of healthcare workers.

Many healthcare workers claimed during testimony that understaffing and turnover can lead to worker trauma and inadequate care for patients.

The current workforce shortage in Wisconsin is a spiraling problem, with nearly 23,000 nursing positions projected to be open by 2040.

A UW Health nurse who has worked in the field for 10 years stressed that he loves his job, but the working conditions are causing him to lose steam.

“Nursing at UW is a great career because I love it. I want to continue to do it, but we’re running low on coworkers, support and we’re all getting pretty tired and run-down from COVID,” the UW Health nurse said.

Another UW Health nurse who has worked in the field for 15 years said this is not a new problem, but COVID made conditions even worse.

“We’ve been sounding the alarm for a long time, and now we’re blaring it as loud as we can. We need help immediately,” she said.

Local healthcare employers also contributed to the conversation, all agreeing that staffing is a major issue they are facing.

Employers discussed multiple avenues for helping alleviate the stress put on workers, including looking at student loan forgiveness, increasing pay, paying for trainings and working with area schools to help funnel prospective nurses into hospitals.

President and CEO of Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin Dr. Mark Huth said although COVID exasperated the problems in the healthcare industry, these are issues that have been going on for years.

“Healthcare’s been broken for a lot of years in this country. We spend twice as much as anybody else, and we’re 37th in the world in quality, so healthcare’s been broken for quite a while,” Dr. Huth said.

The committee will continue their discussions and seek further recommendations in an upcoming meeting. The date of this meeting is yet to be determined.

NBC15 reached out to UW Health for comment after business hours, but has not yet received a response.

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