Michigan Nurses Association calls for changes to conditions amid shortage of workers

A registered nurse says the shortage of nurses isn't because there aren't enough workers; it's because they don't want to work the way conditions are.

"There is no shortage of nurses, there’s just a shortage of RNs willing to work under the conditions that the hospitals have created," said James Walker, who is a member of the board of directors for the Michigan Nurses Association.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Michigan surveyed nurses in the state, the majority still on the job and some who recently left, and the findings offer a bleak outlook. According to participants, four in 10 nurses working in Michigan plan to leave their job.

"I would like to say I was shocked by it, but the honest truth is, I’m not," Walker said.

He said unfair work conditions, including long hours, and too many patients assigned to one nurse are having a negative impact

"Roughly 2/3 of registered nurses in the state of Michigan are actually working, and that’s of around 150,000 RNs, only around 100,000 are currently working," Walker said.

The research also found that many newly trained nurses say they will leave nursing in the coming year.

"Something has to change," Walker said. "We are rationing care."

Walker said nurses were overwhelmed by working conditions before Covid, but the pandemic’s impact has been devastating on them.

"We have PTSD from things we experienced caring for our community, caring for our patients," he said.

The Michigan Nurses Association supports the recommendations for improvement offered in the study and is calling on the legislature to act if hospitals won’t.

"We need our elected officials to pass a law to force these hospitals to institute minimum nurse-to-patient ratios," Walker said.

Walker said he’s not ready to leave nursing but is encouraging residents to call their lawmakers, so work conditions can improve, adding that if there are changes, "those who have left will come back."