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'Making a difference makes it worth it': State of nursing in Kentucky and Indiana

"Making a difference in people’s lives makes it worth it," a nurse tells WHAS11 News.

It’s Nurses Appreciation Week. How much do you really know about the day to day responsibilities of being a nurse. 

WHAS11 News FOCUS team is devoting time, now through May 12, to give you a look at the realities nurses face everyday. 

“You don’t want to know this," said Angela Engler, a traveling nurse from Louisville, who is still recovering after being diagnosed with COVID-19 about a month ago.

Engler tells FOCUS investigative reporter Paula Vasan that she can't wait to go back to work. She said her hands are raw from washing them so often, she's stretched thin and worried about lack of protective equipment. She said making a difference in people’s lives makes it worth it.

“But it’s not easy, it’s not," Engler said.

RELATED: Discounts and freebies for health care workers during Nurses Week

Delanor Manson, CEO of the Kentucky Nurses Association, said we need more people like her.

“There are areas in Kentucky where we don’t have enough nurses," said Manson, referring mostly to rural areas. She said her association is doing all they can support nurses wherever they are.

“We’re doing calls to senior nurses," she said, highlighting some of her efforts. 

She said she and other volunteers are distributing hand sanitizer, yard signs saying ‘thank you’, and resources for mental health and work-life balance. It’s a topic Jill Gonzalez, an analyst at WalletHub has been researching for years, looking at the best and worst states for nurses.

“This is a study that we’ve done now for five years in a row, and I’ve never seen the attention that it’s getting right now," Gonzalez said. 

Crunching numbers from places like the CDC and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, she found Kentucky and Indiana are about average when it comes to supporting nurses. Among their biggest challenges, Gonzalez sited mainly slow job growth, long work hours, and lower state and hospital funding. She said she hopes that while nurses are at the forefront, they’ll have more power to demand change.

Resources for Nurses:

Kentucky Nurses helping Nurses

Emergency Nurses Association

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