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Triaging the Nursing Shortage


Nurses are the lifeblood of healthcare, but that blood supply has been at crisis-level for some time. If left untreated, the shortage could have dire consequences for the industry and for patients.

The reasons for the shortage — from inconvenient shift hours to the threat of physical violence from patients angry about government mandates — are as varied and complex as the solutions to the problem. Much of this was happening before the Covid-19 pandemic. That just made it all worse.

If you haven’t needed a nurse recently, consider the longer, post-pandemic wait times it took (and maybe still does take) to get your favorite dish at your favorite restaurant. Staffing shortages in the food service industry are, in some ways, analagous to those experienced in hospitals and clinics across Memphis and the country. But, needless to say, the stakes are so much higher in healthcare. They can be life-threatening.

“What we’re at risk of in our crisis is the lack of care that hospitals exist for,” says Dr. Wendy Likes, dean of the College of Nursing at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center (UTHSC), “which is caring for the sickest of the sick.”

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