Taken from NJ.com
By Elizabeth Llorente
September 20, 2021
The nurse was ready to walk away.
She had powered through the height of the pandemic, putting in thousands of hours and jeopardizing her own health to tend to coronavirus patients.
Her love for the job propelled her each day, even when the maintenance staff stayed away, leaving her and her colleagues to care for gravely ill COVID-19 patients and clean their rooms.
But when it seemed uncertain the Monmouth County nurse supervisor would be granted a religious exemption from her hospital’s coronavirus vaccination mandate, she was ready to quit after 23 years.
And nothing was going to change her mind.
“As much as I love what I do, I’m not going to bow to someone demanding what I should do with my body,” the nurse told NJ Advance Media, speaking anonymously over concerns of retaliation. She did eventually receive the exemption. “If I hadn’t gotten the exemption, I would have become either a traveling nurse or just left the field. Many at our hospital have quit.”
It’s a scene playing out all over New Jersey as hospitals and other health care facilities are scrambling to avoid a disruption in care. The dearth of workers is an urgent threat in an industry that was already wrestling with staffing shortages, a tight labor market, and pandemic-related burnout and trauma.
As many as 5% to 10% of hospital employees refuse to be vaccinated in the Garden State, exacerbating already thin ranks due to the mental and physical strain of the pandemic and the allure of higher-paying and less stressful jobs elsewhere.
While the majority of health care workers are fully vaccinated in New Jersey, those who are not are in peril of losing their positions. Numerous health systems mandated immunization for their employees, and the state required all workers in hospitals, long-term care centers and other medical facilities to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 7 or face regular testing.
Then President Joe Biden announced this month that the roughly 17 million workers at health care facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement have to be fully inoculated.
The threat of disruptions in care is all too real.
An upstate New York hospital recently announced that it will stop delivering babies because six unvaccinated employees in its maternity ward quit over its mandate. Seven other unvaccinated staffers were weighing whether to get inoculated or resign. The departures made it unsafe to continue accepting patients, hospital officials said.
Many in New Jersey are concerned it can happen here. Some are even developing contingency plans if faced with numerous personnel losses.
Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, for instance, has seen its turnover rate nearly triple — to 8.5% from a previous average of 3%, according to president and CEO Michael Maron.
“Our turnover is the highest we’ve ever experienced,” he said.