CLEVELAND COUNTY, NC — A nationwide nursing shortage is affecting palliative care. Last August, Testa Family Home Hospice was forced to close its Kings Mountain location to consolidate staff at the Shelby site.
Registered nurse Kimberly Hughes has been the director of nursing at Wendover Hospice House in Shelby for the past three years. Before switching to palliative care, she worked in an oncology ward for 30 years.
“Many people will ask us how we care for dying patients on a daily basis, and the answer is: it is very rewarding. We can help families at a very difficult time in their lives, and we can help patients at the end of life,” Hughes said.
Her daily duties include administrative work, but for the past few months she has been helping patients on the floor because they are short staffed.
In August, Hospice of Cleveland County closed Testa Family Hospice in Kings Mountain and transferred its patients and staff to Wendover Hospice in Shelby due to a shortage of registered nurses.
According to UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina will have a shortage of 12,500 registered nurses by 2033.
“It’s rough, it really is, because we can’t take that much time off, my administrative duties now take second place because I’m taking care of patients,” Hughes said.
Myra McGinnis, president of Hospice Cleveland County, said the staffing shortage began during the pandemic. When nurses contracted COVID, they had to move staff around and never recovered.
The number of nurses is decreasing.
“Decades ago, it was women who became nurses, teachers, secretaries in the first place, and now a lot of people are retiring, so that’s one of the reasons for the shortage of nurses,” McGinnis said.
She needs two more full-time nurses to reopen Testa House, which she hopes to do by early February.
Another factor in the shortage, she said, is the lack of opportunities to get a higher education in nursing.
“There’s really not a lot of options in North Carolina, but now Cleveland County Community College has doubled its nursing program, so hopefully in the next few months we’ll see more nurses join the workforce,” McGinnis said.
Hospice houses are experiencing a shortage of nurses
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