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Pittsburgh hospitals suffering from nationwide nursing shortage

PITTSBURGH — There’s a nationwide nursing shortage, and Pittsburgh hospitals are suffering.

Chief Nursing Officer of Allegheny Health Network Claire Zangerle tells Channel 11 that the staffing crisis started before the pandemic but that covid made things worse. For one thing, many nurses retired.

“It has become an issue with AHN in the sense that we are no different than any other health system across the country,” explained Zangerle. “We’ve seen a wave of a certain age group of our nurses that its time to retire and honestly the pandemic pushed them to the retirement maybe a little bit sooner that what they thought about.”

Also, during the pandemic, more nurses in direct patient care took other nursing jobs like education, research or management.

“We don’t have enough nurses being produced by the nursing schools because we don’t have enough instructors in the nursing schools to be able to get those students through their curriculum through the program to the bedside,” explained Zangerle.

Right now, AHN is in need of as many as 300 nurses. Zangerle said that bedside nursing is where they are understaffed, so they are offering incentives, including paying for certifications, offering a sign-on bonus for experienced nurses and incentive pay beyond standard overtime.

In the meantime, she says the short-term solutions include employing agency and international nurses to help reduce the workload for current nurses.

“Long term we want people to come into the nursing profession so we want to go to the middle schools and high schools and talk to the students about the value of nursing and what a career it is that is something we started and had to put to the side because of the pandemic,” Zangerle explained.

AHN also has a special refresher program offered to former nurses looking to return to practice.

Channel 11 also reached out to UPMC. A spokesperson said they are opening their fifth in-house nursing school in August to help address this shortage.