Louisiana still gripped by nurse and doctor shortage

Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 6:30 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
Health care worker inside a hospital.
Health care worker inside a hospital.(Gray tv)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Louisiana’s shortage of health care professionals is not improving. In fact, some think when it comes to nurses, it is getting worse. The shortage of nurses and doctors was a serious issue long before COVID-19 put stress on the state’s health care system.

Dr. Jennifer Manning is Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs in LSU Health New Orleans School of Nursing.

“It’s pretty severe, it’s pretty dire right now. I will say I’ve been a nurse for 21 years, there’s always been a shortage, I’ve written articles about it, I’ve studied about it, but it is definitely the worse I’ve ever seen it,” said Manning.

Dr. Deborah Skevington is interim dean for Delgado’s Charity School of Nursing.

“I think it may become much worse depending on, you know, mandates that you know, some facilities are requiring. One of the things that we’ve done here at Charity to help alleviate that is that we’ve tried to increase our enrollment in our generic RN program and in our LPN to transition, RN transition courses, as well,” said Skevington.

She was asked how the shortage of nurses could impact health outcomes in the state.

“Well, I think eventually there will be an impact, you know if we can’t get nurses through the program to take care of patients,” said Skevington.

More physicians are also needed in Louisiana, especially primary care doctors.

Dr. Richard DiCarlo is senior associate dean in the LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine. He talked about why more primary care doctors are needed in the state.

“On the one hand, the state demographics are changing and increasing the need for primary care, and this includes the aging population, the poverty levels in Louisiana, I think, racial inequities in care,” said DiCarlo.

He said chronic conditions impact the number of primary care doctors that are needed.

“And nationwide there’s been a shift of the diseases that we’re seeing. There’s a lot more chronic disease now as kind of the leading causes of death and things like that, so all of those create a greater need for primary care and particularly in rural communities,” said DiCarlo.

Medical education is also expensive.

“The cost of medical education has gone up and student debt has increased, and the reality is that primary care positions don’t pay as well as a lot of the specialty positions,” DiCarlo stated.

He said LSU Health has scholarship programs to help students and he said there are ongoing efforts to get more of them to become primary care physicians.

“One of our most successful programs is Rural Scholars Track and that’s a program that was started in 2001. It provides students with free tuition for four years if they agree to go into a primary care field and practice in rural Louisiana and I would say that program, 20 years later has been very successful,” said DiCarlo.

The aging population and pay are also cutting into the number of educators for future nurses.

“It’s not just a shortage in the hospitals, it’s a shortage in faculty, with our faculty,” said Skevington.

Some nursing school instructors are reaching retirement age.

“If we had more faculty, we could actually increase our enrollment,” said Skevington.

And competition from states and hospital systems paying more is a factor.

“There is definitely a shortage of faculty, one of the big reasons contributing to that is it’s well known going into an academic position the pay is going to be less than it would be in a clinical position,” Manning stated.

And the ongoing pandemic is weighing on some medical professionals.

“COVID has made that worse over the last couple of years. I think a lot has, has caused a lot of physicians to feel burned out,” DiCarlo stated.

Skevington agrees.

“I think that could be part of it, burnout is a big thing with the nursing profession anyway,” she said.

See a spelling or grammar error in our story? Click Here to report it. Please include the headline.

Copyright 2021 WVUE. All rights reserved.