LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The United States faces a growing shortage of medical workers as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the country.
Pharmacy chains, which are the main drivers of vaccination, are severely understaffed. Walgreens is looking to fill 25,000 positions that include nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare workers.READ MORE: Huntington Beach Police Declare Unlawful Assembly At 'White Lives Matter' Rally
CVS is also “urgently hiring thousands of qualified pharmacists, nurses and pharmacy technicians” on top of the 10,000 roles that have already been filled to help administer the vaccine, according to a recent email sent to customers.
“Major employers are reaching out to anyone and everyone, trying to staff up on pharmacists as well as their support staff, the technicians and students,” Illinois pharmacist Sam An tells Reuters.
To fill the gap, both companies have started to train zero-experience trainees.
“They are training people who have never administered vaccines before, some students, some technicians for the first time to find the light at the end of this tunnel,” An says.
But vaccines cannot help overstretched hospitals right now, the experts say. Many facilities are searching all over the U.S. to find “travel” nurses — nurses who work on temporary contracts for higher fees — to fill staffing shortages.
April Hansen, an executive vice president for Aya Healthcare — an agency that recruits and deploys travel nurses — says the demand for nurses is at an all-time high.
“When I look at our job counts from the height of the first wave this spring and I look at where we’re at today, we are seeing more than double the demand,” she told CBS News.
As of the last week in December, there were requests in all 50 states and over 29,200 job openings for travel nurses.READ MORE: Hospitalizations For COVID-19 Fall Below 500 In LA County
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom announced last month the state needed to hire 3,000 temporary contracted medical workers to help with increasing ICU hospitalizations rates.
"We’re going to be a hardier group of nurses that can handle a lot more.” https://t.co/dt4zEHj9mp
— WECP-TV (@WECPTV) January 22, 2021
The demand for nurses is not expected to go away any time soon. Schools like the Tom P. Haney Technical Center in Panama, Florida, are seeing a surge in students interested in nursing careers.
“It’s been a very constant inquiry for people who are wanting to register,” Alex Murphy, chief community relations officer for Haney Technical Center, told CBS affiliate WECP.
The increased interest doesn’t come without its challenges. Students have had to adopt a hybrid model of remote and hands on learning and classes are kept small to encourage social distancing.
Still, the students are pushing forward despite the added difficulties.MORE NEWS: Man Fatally Shot In Officer-Involved Shooting In San Fernando
“I think that’s what’s eventually going to make us all better nurses,” said student Kristin Smith. “We’re going to be a hardier group of nurses that can handle a lot more.”