LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – During the pandemic, many hospitals dealt with a shortage of nurses nationwide. In Little Rock, Baptist Health said it’s a gap they’re still trying to manage.

Officials with the hospital say so far, they have over 300 nursing vacancies they’re working to fill. They said they’re hoping several methods will help ease the large gap.

Baptist Health Chief Human Resources Officer Cathy Dickinson said the hospital has always had a shortage, but the pandemic helped amplify it.

“One thing was a lot of people just left the bedside and decided they were scared of it,” Dickinson said. “The other thing is a lot of nurses left to travel you know the pay was really good.”

To combat that, Dickinson said they have created more opportunities for scholarships for current employees and future ones.

“We’re offering a lot of scholarships as we go out to the colleges across the state,” Dickinson added. “We’re also giving scholarships to our own internal employees who want to pursue a career in nursing, and we’ve seen that be a really good success.”

Dickinson said those scholarships also apply to those who go to Baptist Health College.

Amy Morris, the RN Coordinator at the college, said it has helped as they feel the pressure to help fill positions in the workplace.

“There has been a decrease in enrollment into the nursing profession which has resulted in a decrease in graduates for our program,” Morris said.

Morris said they’re looking for specific candidates.

“Oftentimes someone that has had that experience in their own lives or in their family with modeling caring behavior to someone either when they’re ill, been in a clinic, or hospital,” Morris said. 

Dickinson said one of the things they have done to handle the shortage is to create stability for staffing.

“Using some supplemental staffing we created an internal pool of nurses that like doing flexibility,” Dickinson said. 

Jonathan Nguyen has been a registered nurse in the Emergency Department of Baptist Health for five years and he said certain changes have helped with the shortage.

“They’ve done a lot of remodeling in the ER and that’s made the flow of everything better,” he said. “We also got new equipment like rovers in our hands for scanning patients instead of longing into a computer every time we go into a patient’s room.”

He said It was his experience in college that gave him the passion to continue in the field.

“I always like to learn new things and that’s the beauty of nursing, especially in the ER there’s always something new,” Nguyen said. 

He said he hopes the versatility in the job will help finally close the gap.

“If you get tired of the bedside you can move on to insurance. There are all kinds of things you can do in the nursing field,” Nguyen said.

For those looking to pursue nursing at Baptist Health College, the deadline for applications is May 31 and those looking to apply for a nursing position at Baptist Health can apply online