In a time of true crisis, like the coronavirus pandemic, we find out who are the real heroes and absolute essential workers among us. And no, they’re not CEOs, lawyers, or Wall Street brokers. Rather, they are drivers, food retail workers, and first and foremost, health care workers — many of whom nurses.
Registered nurses make up about 2% of all U.S. employment, and currently, that may not be enough. Hospitals scrounge for health care professionals, especially nurses, to come and help treat the mushrooming numbers of people with COVID-19. Many retired nurses have answered the call.
24/7 Tempo reviewed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics to identify the metropolitan areas with the fewest nurses per capita in the United States.
More nurses are needed as the number of COVID-19 patients is expected to grow and those who already take care of the sick face a much higher risk of contracting the virus and becoming quarantined. There is an unprecedented demand for “travel nurses,” or nurses from other states, according to NurseFly, a temporary health care staffing platform. Positions in intensive care units and emergency rooms have opened all over the country.
The adequate nurse-to-patient ratio has always been a much debated topic – some states have a legally defined minimum nurse-to-patient ratios — and it is now clear more than ever why. Due to staffing shortage, nurses in some hospitals’ intensive care units are caring for more than twice the number of COVID-19 patients than the standard of care.
Nationwide, there are about nine registered nurses per 1,000 people. In the 50 cities with the fewest nurses per capita, there are no more than 6.4 nurses per 1,000 people. In cities at the bottom of the list, the ratio is just two or three nurses per 1,000 people.