HOUSTON COUNTY, Ala. (WDHN) — COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alabama are intensifying, and those increased hospitalizations are causing many nurses to rethink their profession.

Chief Nursing Officer at Southeast Health, Melissa Owens, said this situation is truly heartbreaking with just about every single nurse in her department having had their fair share of exhaustion. However, despite being tired and overrun, it’s in their blood to treat the patients in desperate need of their care?

“Their bigger challenge, at this point in time, is really just making sure they have co-workers, available staff to help them manage very sick patients,” Owens said.

This shortage isn’t just impacting nurses. According to Chief Human Resource Officer at Southeast Health, Kelly Hurt, hospitals also need helping staff such as certified nurses, lab technicians, and transporters.

“Unfortunately, we are going to have to start taking on some different tactics. Internally is there an ability to grow our own?” Hurt said.

Southeast Health has lost some of its nurses due to them becoming traveling nurses, an opportunity that often offers higher pay.

“It’s a lifestyle change for them because it is a 12 to 13-week contract,” Hurt said. “You are going to go where that agency needs you to go. At the end of that contract, you don’t know where you will go next if you will have a contract.”

Another challenge Southeast Health is having to overcome is moving nurses and staff from other departments to help keep up with the demand of COVID patients. They say these shifts just add to the stress of the career.

“COVID-19, in particular, I don’t believe is really as much as them being afraid to care for it,” Owens said. “As much as it is just the demand.”

In order to help bring more nurses to Southeast Health, the hospital has offered its fair share of incentives. Often giving a sign-on bonus to new nurses who are hired.

“When you don’t feel that you have that ability to do the best job you can because of the demand that is required for you, or you don’t feel like the job you are doing is even purposeful anymore then nurses choose to fill that void,” Hurt said.

A recent report shows more than 1 million new registered nurses will be needed by 2030 to help meet healthcare demands with 500,000 nurses expected to leave the field this year. Both Hurt and Owens tell me they do not see this nursing shortage coming to an end anytime soon.