Vaccine mandate latest hurdle in Oregon nursing shortage



PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to overwhelm Oregon’s health system — with hospital beds more than 90% full — the looming statewide vaccine mandate, which applies to healthcare workers, is the latest hurdle in a nursing shortage.

In Oregon, teachers, state employees and healthcare workers are required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 to keep their jobs.

Monday was the final day for individuals to receive a shot to be considered fully vaccinated by the statewide deadline.

Oregon’s hospital staffing issue has been significantly exacerbated during the pandemic.

On Thursday, officials from the Oregon Nurses Association said 60% of nurses at the state’s largest hospital indicated that they are considering leaving the profession.

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“The current nursing crisis the state of Oregon is facing … has been decades in the making,” Natasha Schwartz, a member on the Oregon Nurses Association Board of Directors, said during a news conference. “As we see a small number of nurses potentially leave the profession due to their decision to decline the vaccination, we are also concerned burnout will lead to an even larger number of nurses leaving the bedside — and in Oregon, we will not be able to educate a large enough number of nurses to replace them.”

KOIN reported last month that at Legacy Silverton Hospital 18 nurses, nearly half of the nursing staff in the labor and delivery department, are facing termination.

Although the number of nurses in Oregon who have decided not to get vaccinated is “tiny,” Pond said it will have a magnified impact.

“You lose one nurse at the bedside — and then other people have to step in and fill that nurse’s shoes,” Pond said. “It perpetuates that cycle of continuous overtime, nurse exhaustion and mental health stress.”


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