We've all been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but how are the caregivers doing? When your daily job might include severe patient suffering and all-too-often deaths for months on end, has it changed nurses' opinions of their careers? Montana State University (MSU) in Bozeman has been awarded a grant for a two-year study on the effects of the pandemic on nurses.

In a news release from MSU, Peter Buerhaus, director of the MSU Center for Interdisciplinary Health Workforce Studies in the College of Nursing said the study will see if employment changed in certain areas, if there are regional differences and if nurses' earnings and employment changed in the categories of age, gender, race and ethnicity.

Buerhaus said, "Through this research we want to understand whether nurses are leaving the workforce and whether large numbers of "baby boomer" nurses are retiring earlier than they had planned. If the pandemic is causing nurses to leave the workforce or retire early, then health care delivery organizations could be in trouble."

The report will have quarterly reports and expects to be completed by 2022 with hopes to forecast the number of registered nurses through the year 2030. Pre-pandemic forecasts had an increase of at least a million more registered nurses, but experts are not sure now. The study will include registered nurses, nurse practitioners, licensed practical nurses and nursing assistants in all types of care settings, including nursing homes.

Susan Hassmiller of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said, "Nurses are the most admired, trusted and respected all professions in the United States. They keep people safe, they assure quality, and they advise people and comfort them. We need to know the impact this pandemic is having on nurses of all races, genders, regions and settings. We cannot let this pandemic deflate the culture of this vibrant profession."

Funding for the study comes from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The John A. Hartford Foundation, the Johnson & Johnson Foundation and United Health Group. Buerhaus, along with Douglas Staiger of Dartmouth College and David Auerbach of the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission are leading the study. They have worked together on many studies over the past two decades. Buerhaus said that one thing is clear - nurses will continue to be as crucial as they have always been.

For a more complete report, check the MSU News Service.

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