WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The State of Texas now has the fourth lowest nurse-to-population ratio in the country, according to U.S. Bureau of Health Workforce Data.

Being a nurse can be rewarding.

“Nursing is a very caring profession,” Senior Director of Patient Care Services at United Regional Kim Stringfellow said. “You get to impact a lot of lives. Many individuals you get to take care of, you are seeing them at their worst and you have the privilege of being able to make that, in whatever way possible, better for them.”

It can also be a challenging job.

“It’s a very stressful situation because along with seeing individuals at their worst, there’s a lot of emotion involved in those situations,” Stringfellow said. “It’s emotionally draining on the team, can be physically challenging.”

Adding to the challenge is a critical nationwide shortage of nurses. Texas is one of the states with the highest shortage, with an average of 9.25 nurses per 1,000 residents, the fourth lowest state for nurse-to-population ratio. That shortage is also being felt at United Regional.

“We are all experiencing it,” Stringfellow said. “Wichita Falls is no different.”

Stringfellow said the COVID-19 pandemic brought more stress to the shortage in nursing care and more awareness to that problem in the general public.

“I think we’ve experienced the nursing shortage for many, many years,” Stringfellow said. “This isn’t something new. I think it became more magnified during the pandemic because we had very high patients in a much larger population than we’ve experienced before.”

Community partners play a big role in helping United Regional minimize the impact of the shortage.

“We have two local nursing schools with Vernon College and Midwestern State University that allow us to bring nursing students while they are training into the hospital to give them those experiences with us. Before they even make an employment decision, we’re getting them in the organization. Then we also have a partnership with Sheppard Air Force Base.”

The shortage isn’t likely to be getting any better anytime soon, but the hope is more and more students will see the positives and rewards of helping others when they make their career decisions.