Boston area nurses feeling drained by staffing shortages, capacity challenges

BOSTON — Nurses across the state of Massachusetts are feeling burned out by worsening staffing shortages and capacity challenges.

Some hospitals in the commonwealth began cutting back on elective procedures by 30% this week following an executive order from the state. While some nurses are hopeful that will be a relief valve, others aren’t feeling as optimistic.

The strain of being asked to do more with less is taking a toll on many health care workers as the months progress.

“We’ve all reached maximum threshold burnout. The burden is so unreal. We feel so stressed,” said Kelly Morgan, a nurse in charge of labor & delivery at Brigham & Women’s Hospital. “It’s made a lot of us nurses take a step back and go, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’”

Morgan said caring for patients safely with a lack of available beds continues to be a daily concern.

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“There can be anywhere from 30-to-60 patients a day just waiting in the emergency room,” Morgan said. “Some are thinking, ‘I can’t face a patient every day and tell them I can’t do what you need.’”

Over at Tufts Medical Center, the burden has also been taxing. The Chief Nursing Officer told Boston 25 News that the hospital typically has about 300 patients occupying beds. She said, right now, that number is at approximately 350.

“We’re seeing patient volumes at 120% occupancy. We are functioning at a capacity level at or greater than at the peak of the pandemic,” said Terry Hudson-Jinks, Chief Nursing Officer and Chief Patient Experience Officer at Tufts Medical Center.

Hudson-Jinks said, on average, about 15-to-25 of the hospital beds at Tufts are being occupied by patients with COVID-related illnesses. She said it’s everything from cardiac to neurological conditions that are bringing capacity to a tipping point.

“It’s about more patients sicker, staying longer periods of time, in addition to patients coming into our emergency department at higher numbers per day than we’re used to seeing,” Hudson-Jinks explained.

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Hudson-Jinks said there’s not one clear explanation as to what’s leading to an ongoing increase in hospitalizations. She believes the stress of living through a pandemic and some people not following through with preventive measures may be contributing factors.

“We’re watching the COVID predictions really carefully every single day. We’ll be prepared to take additional steps if that’s in fact necessary,” she added.

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