GREENSBORO, N.C. — There's a massive nationwide shortage of nurses. In fact, the American Nurses Association sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services urging the federal government to declare a national emergency and start looking for solutions.

The Association writes: "Once the nation began COVID-19 mitigation and response efforts, much focus has been placed on nurses facing shortages of equipment to appropriately care for patients. Now, it is imperative that the Administration acknowledge and take concrete steps to address a more dire shortage: a crisis-level human resource shortage of nurses that puts our ability to care for patients in jeopardy."

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For example, in just two of North Carolina’s hospital systems, Duke Health and UNC Hospitals, there are currently job openings for more than 1,500 nursing positions.

This problem is nothing new, but nurses said COVID has made it worse. Nurses like Paulette Rangel said they're burned out and are looking for other jobs.

“It takes a lot out of you,” she said. “We wanted to be there for our patients, but, you know, when we're running on fumes, it's hard to do that. Talking to my husband, I was just telling him  I really don't want to get you guys sick.”

As some leave the business - it's more work for ones that stay. Research shows every patient added to a nurse's workload is associated with a 7% increase in the odds a patient will die just after common surgical procedures.