Japan's hospitals struggle with nursing shortage amid pandemic
NHK -- May 16
After nearly three decades as a nurse, Hori Narumi was looking forward to retiring this year. But the coronavirus outbreak has put those plans on hold. Japan was struggling with a shortage of nurses even before the epidemic. Now, the situation has reached a crisis point.

In March, Hori decided to take on a role as an advisor to the Tokyo Nursing Association. She says that in all her years of work, she has never experienced anything like what she’s seeing at hospitals now.

“We don’t have enough protective equipment,” she says. “Nurses are terrified of getting sick and infecting their family members.”

Hori says this fear is compounded by a sense of helplessness, unique to the coronavirus crisis. Nurses are unable to offer the full treatment they were trained for, given the nature of the virus.

“It’s heartbreaking not being able to give the best end-of-life care to patients and their relatives,” she says.

The Japanese Nursing Association says these feelings of fear and impotence, combined with longer than usual hours, is leading to burnout. The organization says some nurses are already suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to the Japanese Nursing Association, a ward treating COVID-19 requires four times as many nurses as a regular one. This strain on manpower is exacerbated by the spread of infection inside hospitals, which is forcing many qualified staff to stay home and self-isolate.

In early April, Fukui Toshiko, president of the Japanese Nursing Association, issued an urgent plea for retired nurses to return to work. She says Japan is in desperate need of people, no matter what their previous roles were, or how long they had been away, and says there are jobs, such as telephone operators, that have a low risk of infection. The association emailed 50,000 former nurses. As of Monday, only 600 had answered the call.

The association has asked the government to offer hazard pay to help entice more people back. But that request has gone unanswered.

News source: NHK
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