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UNLV apprentice nursing program helps with medical staff shortage

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Posted at 8:05 PM, Mar 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-19 15:03:04-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Many healthcare workers are exhausted and overworked as staffing shortages remain a major issue in the valley.

Katalina Guzman, a nurse at a local urgent care facility, says she has witnessed some healthcare workers take on up to 10 patients at once. She says at this rate, they can’t give patients the proper care.

“We are very exhausted; I mean, even during the surge, our normal schedules have us working about 13-hour days, and then it gets turned into 15-hour days," Guzman said.

Guzman says medical workers are burnt out and having to pick up more work to meet the demand.

“We have had to close down entire urgent cares because we don’t have enough staff to work, so it’s hard because we can’t provide enough care to the community,” Guzman said.

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Toward the end of February, the Nevada Hospital Association said the state's medical staffing shortage is at a crisis level. Guzman says at her urgent care facility, she has seen some nurses with up to 10 patients at once.

“That turns into a patient safety issue. Each nurse should totally care and give all their attention, and they can’t take care of five, six, seven patients at once and give them proper care,” Guzman said.

Nursing students at UNLV have responded to the call for help. An apprentice program with more than 20 students has been created to allow students to get first-hand experience and assist with this shortage.

Dr. Angela Silvestri-Elmore, BSN program director at UNLV, says this program is showing a positive result. She says about 300 nursing students are expected to graduate this year. 61 graduates are expected this spring. Of those, about 90% are expected to work in local hospitals.

“Not only does it help our community and our patients, but it will also help us prepare for really complex health care needs,” Silvestri-Elmore said.

Nikole Taylor is a level 2 nursing student at UNLV, and she is part of the apprentice program. She says the first day she walked into her hospital, she noticed a significant need for help.

“You just always have to stay on your toes, and some of the nurses aren’t getting breaks," Taylor said. "You just never know what to expect from patients, so it is hard to see that, but I’m also taking it all in and that’s why I joined to help."

She says she is seeing a large influx of patients that have delayed their health care because of the pandemic, making things harder for nurses. But she is glad to help.

“All around, there is a shortage going on in the hospitals, and I think just seeing it for myself, it’s crazy to see what is happening in our healthcare system right now and the more help the better, to help provide care to these patients,” Taylor said.

On Friday, the School of Medicine will have its match day to find out where these students, who are working to become doctors, will end up and have their residency. Many of those future doctors can end up right here in the valley to help provide more health care to many.