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East Tennessee hospitals staffed well despite nationwide nursing shortage

Enrollment at UT's College of Nursing is at an all-time high, as the dean says the pandemic is inspiring more people to start careers in healthcare.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A nationwide nursing shortage isn't new.

Many states need help. Hospitals as close as the Tri-Cities need to hire hundreds of nurses to keep up with patient demand.

But here in East Tennessee, we're in pretty good shape.

"The hospitals are working very, very hard and they will take care of their patients and they will find nurses," said Victoria Niederhauser, Dean of UT's College of Nursing.

She said most nurses are not struggling to get hired right now, and most UT nursing students have jobs lined up before graduation.

East Tennessee hospital beds are currently 75 percent occupied.

"If you ask the chief nurses if they needed more nurses they would say yes," said Niederhauser.

Some nurses are cutting back hours to deal with things ranging from fatigue to helping their kids with virtual schooling.

"Typically a nurse cares for others, that's what we do," said Niederhauser. "Sometimes that goes at the expense of their own health and well-being."

Even then, local hospitals said they aren't seeing a nursing shortage.

Tennova said it employs more than 1,000 nurses, and turnover has been no different from previous years.

Niederhauser said the pandemic has made more people want to find careers in healthcare.

"A lot of folks want to have purpose in what they do for their life career profession, and I think the pandemic has exemplified the value of a wonderful nurse at a bedside," she said.

UT's College of Nursing enrollment hit an all time high during the Fall 2020 semester, with 1,009 students.

More than 300 of those future nurses will graduate and join the workforce next spring.