March 06, 2023
2 min read
Webb AW. Implications of nephrology workforce shortage for dialysis patient care. Presented at: Annual Dialysis Conference. March 3-6, 2023; Kansas City, Mo.
Webb reports no relevant financial disclosures.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The staffing shortage in nephrology is leading to burnout, but it was also caused by burnout, according to a presenter at the Annual Dialysis Conference.
“If you want to think about it in a linear sense, there are different stressors that increase things like burnout, turnover and staff shortages … Then these all kind of contribute to decreased quality of patient care,” Andrew W. Webb, DNP, FNP, from the University of Missouri Healthcare, said in the presentation. “If you have increased burnout, that’s going to lead to higher turnover. Higher turnover is going to increase your risk of staffing shortages.”
In his presentation, Webb referenced a study conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic that revealed about 57% of dialysis nurses reported experiencing abuse at work. In this case, abuse consisted of verbal abuse, threats, discrimination, sexual harassment and physical abuse.
Webb reported a decrease of more than 100,000 registered nurses between 2020 and 2021, many of which were younger than 35 years.
“Our younger nurses are more vulnerable to [resigning over] this situation,” Webb said. “That’s our future nursing workforce.”
While abuse was a factor in staffing shortages before the pandemic, COVID-19 led to a shortage of supplies, increased workloads due to sick employees and a high mortality rate among patients. Consequently, Web said this resulted in more staffing shortages.
Andrew W. Webb
“If you work in insert dialysis, you get to know these patients well,” he said. “Sometimes the best situation can be almost like family, and watching a lot of them die in a short period is emotionally exhausting.”
In addition to the mental toll of experiencing abuse as well as loss, 40.3% of renal health care providers reported experienced fear about going to work during the pandemic, according to Webb.
He acknowledged that low pay has contributed to the resignation and deterrence of nurses in dialysis, as did audience members during the question and answer segment of the presentation.
Regarding the future, Webb said there are increases in nursing school enrollment but the decline in nursing supply of those younger than 35 years is “concerning.”
“We have to recognize that current staff are valuable resources, and all reasonable efforts should be made to retain them,” Webb said. “This can be done by trying to decrease those factors that increase burnout, and [this] can improve patient care and improve retention.”