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Nursing in South Carolina One Year Later – Part 3: How To Learn a Lesson from Chaos

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Luke Jones
If schools and hospitals remember the lessons they learned during the pandemic's darkest days, nursing professionals say the future of the field will have a lot to offer.

In Part 3 of South Carolina Public Radio's four-part look at the state of the nursing profession, those tasked with keeping and recruiting nurses say the COVID-19 pandemic gave hospitals and schools an awful lot to learn — chief of which is to build support and safety nets right into the programs that help nurses survive emotionally.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the need for 1.1 million new nurses by next year, and the American Nurse Association anticipates that there will be more available jobs for registered nurses in 2022 than for any other profession.
That might mean a lot of opportunity but it's also a sign of a longstanding problem in the medical field — a notable lack of trained nurses in hospitals and healthcare facilities.

The pandemic certainly hasn't helped. While there's no accurate count of how many nurses left South Carolina during the pandemic, Judith Thompson, CEO of the South Carolina Nurses Association, says more than enough did.

The reasons why are as varied as anything — the search for more money, the chance to start over somewhere else, the need to go someplace that appreciates you more.

That last one turns out to be a big reason. And for hospital administrators like McLeod Health COO Michelle Logan-Owens, it's a glaring neon opportunity for hospitals and healthcare organizations to build better care services for healthcare professionals straight into the job.

For nursing educators like Mary Foster Cox and Joy Deupree, both professors at the University of South Carolina, it's also an opportunity for schools to develop emotional and career support services from the ground up.

This story is part of a series exploring the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on nursing and health care in South Carolina. In Part 4, we'll step slightly off the path to discuss the press' role in shaping how you think about this subject.

Scott Morgan is the Upstate multimedia reporter for South Carolina Public Radio, based in Rock Hill. He cut his teeth as a newspaper reporter and editor in New Jersey before finding a home in public radio in Texas. Scott joined South Carolina Public Radio in March of 2019. His work has appeared in numerous national and regional publications as well as on NPR and MSNBC. He's won numerous state, regional, and national awards for his work including a national Edward R. Murrow.