The coronavirus pandemic has brought pleas from across the country for retired nurses, doctors and other clinicians to re-engage to help alleviate staffing shortages. 

But the prospect of exposure has some retirees skeptical to return, especially in the long-term care sector, according to one expert. 

“The call for retired nurses to come back to work is being met with reluctance because these nurses are often older and at greater risk. A better way to meet this crisis is to allow nurses to work across state lines,” Amy Stewart, vice president of curriculum development with the American Association of Directors of Nursing Services, told McKnight’s

Multiple governors and health departments have called on retired clinicians to assist with the COVID-19 response. In Illinois last week, at least 180 retired healthcare workers responded to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s (D) request.

And that was before an alert was blasted to cell phone users Tuesday night. The appeal for healthcare professionals was delivered like a hazardous weather notice or AMBER Alert.

New York City, which has become the worst hit area in the U.S., went even further, broadcasting an appeal to healthcare professionals anywhere in the country to come help fight the onslaught.

Some states hurting more

Advocates have previously stated that providers in states that don’t that don’t participate in the Nurse Licensure Compact, are struggling with staffing challenges. The compact allows nurses to practice from state-to-state without having to get additional licenses.

Stewart noted that this same process should be allowed in non-compact states to help streamline the process for nurses. 

“For example, if I live in Minnesota but have a Michigan and Illinois license, I’d need to get a license in Minnesota to work here. In the past, the process was long and cumbersome, but if it were made easier, a nurse could go to work within a few days versus waiting several weeks,” Stewart explained. 

“I do see organizations [in compact states] sharing nurses across state lines where possible, and in the coming days, long-term care facilities will need to be allowed to do more of this or risk closing due to lack of staff to safely care for residents,” she said. 

Desperate PPE use guidance

Having a sufficient supply of protective personal equipment also will be key in recruitment efforts during this crisis, Stewart added. 

“LTC organizations hoping to attract these nurses — retired or otherwise — need to be clear in their message that they have proper PPE available to protect staff,” she said.

McKnight’s Flash Survey results published Monday showed that more than 77% of respondents said their facilities were experiencing personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages. Nearly 3 in 5 (59%) were using homemade or reused PPE items.On Tuesday, the Joint Commission issued a statement about PPE use, encouraging clinicians to use their own personal PPE (masks and respirators) if necessary but warning that homemade masks should be used only as a last resort.