By Amy Kawata

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Health officials are calling it one of the worst nursing shortages in Maryland’s history.

“This is indeed a crisis and a crisis that needs to be addressed,” said Dr. Kathleen Wiser, Dean of Notre Dame of Maryland University School of Nursing.

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The nursing profession, which was already stretched before the pandemic is now in greater demand than ever before.

“I have seen ups and downs with the nursing shortage, but this is clearly the worse that I have seen it in four decades,” said Wiser.

Doctors say there could be several factors behind this, from the baby boomer generation getting older to nursing burnout.

“It has resulted in some nurses electing to leave the profession for the time, some nurses electing to become traveling nurses because financially, the compensation they receive is considerably more than what they receive as an employee in one of our hospitals,” said Dr. Jane Kirschling, Dean of University of Maryland School of Nursing.

“This is rigorous… you’re always on and you have to be on point all the time, so that can be a stressful occupation and vocation after a while,” said Wiser.

Doctors say the covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem.

“At one time that their work level may have been let’s say four patients, five patients, six patients, well now they’re taking up to ten patients over a 12-hour shift,” said Wiser.

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Officials say the rising demand for patient care with not only unvaccinated patients due to the COVID-19 delta variant surge but also patients resuming non-elective surgeries and procedures put off since the beginning of the pandemic has put a strain on hospital systems dealing with a shortage of nurses.

That’s why Notre Dame of Maryland University School of nursing is working to address the shortage by speeding up the process to become a nurse through an accelerated program to help students like Kathryn Newsome earn a nursing degree in just 15 months.

“Being in the medical field is always something I wanted to do,” said Kathryn Newsome, nursing school student at Notre Dame of Maryland University.

University of Maryland School of Nursing officials are also seeing a strong applicant pool and admission numbers. They say their goal is to keep graduates in state to practice.

“Nursing gives you flexibility, it gives you very much a livable wage, it gives you the opportunity to care for people at some of their most vulnerable times of their life,” said Kirschling.

For Newsome, the shortage of nurses is a trend she hopes will turn around as more people recognize the importance of the profession.

“I just want to make a difference and Be able to help people who are in need,” said Newsome.

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Nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the demand for registered nurses to grow by 12 percent by 2028 and projects Maryland will need 10,000 nurses in the next 10 years.