AUSTIN (KXAN) — A pandemic nursing staffing shortage persists, and KXAN is learning it’s hitting some Austin delivery rooms.
KXAN first started digging into this when a patient in the St. David’s HealthCare system said they weren’t able to schedule an elective induction before their baby was a week past due or if it was medically necessary for another reason.
St. David’s HealthCare said the nationwide nursing shortage means medical facilities will sometimes make schedule changes for elective procedures. They added each facility has its own resources to allocate, which can change on a daily basis.
“As has been widely reported, there is a nationwide nursing shortage. As a result, healthcare facilities occasionally must make scheduling adjustments for elective and non-emergent procedures… In general, medical facilities have their own resources to allocate, and no facility is the same. There are many factors that can impact resources, and allocation can change on a daily basis.”St. David’s HealthCare
Betsey Albrecht said she encountered a similar issue at Ascension Seton. Her baby was due June 17.
“We knew that her head was really big — 99th percentile,” Albrecht said.
Since she wanted a natural birth, Albrecht wanted to be induced at 39 weeks; she was worried her baby’s head would get too big, and she’d need a C-section.
“My doctor said, ‘I’ll put in the request, but there’s a nursing shortage. So… no promises,'” Albrecht explained.
Albrecht said her doctor told her she’d move to the top of the induction list if she hit one week past her due date or 41 weeks pregnant.
KXAN reached out to Ascension Seton for a response but hasn’t heard back yet.
Baylor Scott and White Medical Center said it isn’t experiencing the issue.
“Of course, we were really excited and blessed that we didn’t have medical complications. So, we weren’t at the top of the list,” Albrecht said.
Still, she was shocked to hear about the shortage’s impact.
“It was wild to not have that control,” she said.
Just a few days before Albrecht’s 41st week, she said she got a call from Seton saying it had an opening.
“I did end up with pre-eclampsia. So, good thing I got in there when I did, because it got pretty bad,” she said. “Once we got there, the nursing staff was amazing. Every single nurse we loved… it’s just we had to wait, which was tricky.”
And pretty soon, the new parents will be playing catch-up to the little girl they were once waiting for.
“We’re a little afraid. She’s pretty active. We’re like ‘uh oh!'” Albrecht laughed.
Ascension Seton nurses unionize
In a statement Wednesday, one registered nurse in Ascension Seton’s intensive care unit, Matthew Clark, said he saw lots of staff leave because of “worsening conditions,” and it’s why he voted to join the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United, the largest nursing union in the United States.
“Ascension has more than enough money to retain nurses and provide better conditions. We are excited to use our collective voice to advocate for our patients by fighting for safer staffing and better working conditions,” Clark said in Wednesday’s press release.
The union said they want to improve patient safety and secure competitive wages to keep Austin nurses working here in the community.
According to the union, it’s helped nurses get wage increases of up to 19% over a three-year period and create committees to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.
It said it’s also helped with hospital recruitment, retention and promotion.