CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Feeling overwhelmed and undervalued, some Arizona nurses are quitting their jobs at hospitals during the Covid-19 crisis. Some of them have no plans of returning to a hospital setting.

"When almost all of your patients end up dying, it makes you wonder why you're doing what you're doing, and why you're putting yourself through that, and why you're putting yourself at risk," says Sandra Kirkby, a critical care nurse in Chandler.

Kirkby says she left her job over the summer for several reasons. In April, she went to New York to help with the Covid-19 crisis there. Kirkby says that she was brushed off when she returned to her hospital with ideas to improve patient care.

"I've been dismissed by physicians who actually have never treated a patient or seen these patients in person," says Kirkby.

After 15 years working as a nurse, Kirkby left in July. She now focuses on patient advocacy, providing services to help families navigate the healthcare system and maintaining a blog called “Ms. Mindful.”

Nurse Ryan Sutton spent his last day in an emergency room on Christmas Day. He says leaving his job was a “tough decision.” Sutton says the work took a toll on his physical and emotional health. He is now a contractor for Mobile IV Nurses, which also provides rapid Covid-19 tests.

"You're making [patients] feel better when you give IVs, and you give them answers on whether they have Covid or not," says Sutton.

It's difficult to tell how many nurses have left the industry. The Arizona Board of Nursing tracks licenses but does not follow nurses who leave the field but retain their license.

National Nurses United, a union representing nurses in all 50 states, has been conducting surveys throughout the pandemic to track concerns and challenges. According to their latest survey, nearly 80 percent of hospital RNs reported feeling more stressed than before the pandemic, and 30 percent of nurses reporting staffing as their number one safety concern.

Kirkby says she will not return to a hospital setting, while Sutton says he’s open to the idea.

“Hopefully with the vaccination going on and everything, hopefully summer time will be a lot better,” says Sutton.


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