Commerce Matters: Nursing workforce must be a priority (Voices)

Ann Silver is CEO of the Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce.

Ann Silver is CEO of the Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce.

As Delta variant cases rise and COVID cases surge yet again, the local nursing shortage imperils a full recovery.

Our community is in desperate need of these professional men and women who provide 24/7 care to hospital patients and have spent the past 18 months dedicating every bit of their talent, compassion and energy to assisting us, our family members, friends and colleagues.

It’s noteworthy that there were approximately 3 million nurses in the United States in 2019, prior to the pandemic, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics now estimates 176,000 nursing openings exist nationwide.

For many years, our Nevada hospitals have expressed the need for trained nurses and a ne
w pipeline of talent that needs ongoing development.

Fortunately, we have several educational programs to achieve that goal, both at our universities and community colleges, federally-funded grant programs that will create nursing trainees in our rural areas, and nonprofit job training organizations that provide initial certifications.

The federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act designates funding for training this in-demand profession, and our state leaders should ensure more of it is spent on attracting, hiring and retaining registered nurses.

We need to use ingenuity and perseverance to attract nurses who will call this area “home.”

Housing remains a hurdle, childcare is expensive, and commutes can take up to an hour depending on traffic.

These are challenges, and there are multiple strategies in place to address them. But in the meantime, burnout and the mental health of our nurses is at stake, and these factors limit their ability to care for their patients, much less themselves and family members.

The strain placed on our healthcare system, inadequate at best, has created a higher rate of suicide among health care workers and in particular, registered nurses on the front line of every emergency, recovery or patient death.

The nursing shortage is compounded by baby boomers retiring at record rates and changing attitudes about where and how to work.

The Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce supports any form of federal assistance that will incentivize high school graduates to pursue the nursing profession, including financial incentives that help with tuition and on-the-job training.

Businesses in Reno, Sparks and Washoe County should consider sponsoring a nurse by way of paying for uniforms, offering a family meal each week, filling up a nurse’s gas tank, or hosting a traveling nurse in a spare bedroom.

We’ve rallied around businesses of all kinds for the past 18 months while our nursing community took care of us. Now it’s time to encourage students and adults seeking a career change to become registered nurses while we remind ourselves that this is a most noble and sustainable profession.

“Commerce Matters” is a monthly Voices column in the NNBW authored by Ann Silver, CEO of the Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce. Reach her for comment at


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