MADISON, WI (May 7, 2020) — From hospitals to nursing homes, health care workers are delivering exceptional physical and emotional care during the coronavirus outbreak. However, many of those workers, including nurses, are facing extreme fatigue, which may lead to a wave of retirements and a near-term nursing shortage.
That was the message from Barbara Pinekenstein, a clinical professor in UW–Madison’s School of Nursing, during a recent UW Now Livestream. According to Pinekenstein, at least 15 percent of COVID-19 cases are health care workers. She hopes those numbers will go down as we learn more about how the virus spreads.
Most nurses are now wearing personal protective equipment all the time. However, the use of that equipment sometimes leads to pressure sores, neck pain, and breathing issues, making nurse fatigue a real challenge. “It’s really important for nursing staff to have time off to recover between shifts. They need breaks. They need adequate sleep and rest,” said Pinekenstein. “Health care systems are trying to look at how they are staffing and scheduling nurses to deal with that issue.”
There are 90,000 nurses licensed in Wisconsin. The average age of those nurses is 46. Pinekenstein is concerned that there will be an increase in retirements because of the COVID crisis, which will lead to a nursing shortage.
UW–Madison’s School of Nursing is using cutting-edge technology and innovative nursing education tracks to bring more people into the profession. The school currently has more than 1,000 students, and 240 nurses will graduate this week. “This is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Pinekenstein.
The topic of emergency aid to UW–Madison students was also discussed during The UW Now Livestream. Derek Kindle, vice provost of enrollment management and the acting director of student financial aid at UW–Madison, told listeners that the university was the first in the Big Ten to set up an emergency student support fund. The fund is helping support undergraduate and graduate students experiencing emergency situations arising from the COVID-19 crisis. Examples of fund use include emergency travel expenses, funding for those who are no longer able to work because of closures and other issues, and housing and moving costs.
“There are students who still can’t return home for a number of reasons,” said Kindle.
“Work has not returned to the level that our students are used to for their income. We’ll try our best with the support of our Badger Family to meet those needs.”
UW–Madison has already processed more than 5,000 emergency student aid requests. About 28 percent of those requests are from first-generation college students. The average request is $1,200 per student. Kindle anticipates many students will have emergency needs through this summer and into the fall.
To donate to the Student Emergency Support Fund, visit: jumpstart.supportuw.org/campaigns/emergency-student-support-1
To view a recording of this livestream, visit youtube.com/watch?v=n0KvPdRtg7Y&feature=youtu.be
The Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association plans to host The UW Now Livestream weekly, featuring UW–Madison faculty and staff with unique expertise.
Contact: Tod Pritchard, firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-609-5217, @WisAlumni