Across the country, hospital systems are facing a shortage of nurses.
In Cook County, the shortage prompted nurses at Stroger Hospital to go on strike this summer, for the first time in decades.
Nurses say the lack of adequate staffing has led to burnout and sometimes means patients in need of services must be redirected from one hospital to another.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, nurses have not been provided with optimal PPE (personal protective equipment), all sorts of safety equipment so that we can actually work with patients,” said Elizabeth Lalasz, a registered nurse at Stroger Hospital and a steward at National Nurses United. “Nurses have been very fearful for their lives.”
Elizabeth Aquino, president of the American Nurses Association-Illinois, said the situation is not only affecting nurses.
“We know that staffing affects the quality of care provided to patients,” Aquino said. “It significantly impacts both nurses and patients.”
A spokesperson for Cook County Health told WTTW News it has onboarded approximately 800 nurses over the past year, and monitors staffing levels on a daily basis.
The spokesperson also said Stroger Hospital is currently recruiting for 200 open nursing positions and hopes to fill an additional 100 positions at the hospital in 2022.
Federal stimulus money will not come directly to Cook County Health, the spokesperson pointed out.