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OKLAHOMA (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Nurses Association met with the State Department of Health and Governor’s office to discuss their concerns with the nursing shortage.

The Association says there has been a nursing shortage for years, but the pandemic is making it worse.

“Our nurses and clinical staff continue to overcome these challenges every day; they’re extremely resilient people, but in many cases they also become exhausted,” Karyl James, chief nursing officer at Mercy Hospital, said. “They’ve been working around the clock for eight months with no real end in sight.”

The Nurses Association sent a letter to the Governor’s office with several requests, including asking for a staffing agency to bring more nurses to Oklahoma.

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A letter from the Oklahoma Nurses Association to Gov. Kevin Stitt. 
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Page 2 of a letter from the Oklahoma Nurses Association to Gov. Kevin Stitt.

“We did make some progress on this topic and subject, and there is still work to be done,” Cathy Pierce, Chief Nurse Executive, OU Medicine, said. 

The group also wants to see a marketing campaign launched to bring nurses out of retirement, or to get nurses who have expired licenses back on the job.

They also want a mask mandate in counties that have a certain number of new COVID cases per 100,000 people.

The State Health Commissioner says talks have been productive.

“It was actually a very good meeting. We are trying to work with them in any way we can from a state level to help them with their need. There are limitations on that,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said in a press conference. “As a state agency, for instance, us trying to control a labor market is not something we can do.”

The State Department of Health also released the following statement:

“Yesterday’s meeting with the Oklahoma Nurses Association was a productive one that will help position our state to address the alarming nursing shortage we’re experiencing. OSDH continues to work closely with the ONA to find solutions that will increase staffing, including a potential campaign for recruitment of additional nurses in the state. We are extremely grateful for our public health nurses as they have worked tirelessly through the pandemic, putting their lives on the line for the health and safety of Oklahomans.”


At Oklahoma Christian University, nursing students are helping to fill the nursing gap in hospitals at an unprecedented rate.

“I’ve never seen this happen, where it was so critical and we had so many patients in the hospital with such a debilitating disease,” Dr. Jennifer Gray, Dean of the College of Professional Studies at Oklahoma Christian University, said.

The Governor’s Office sent the following statement:

“The governor’s team had a productive meeting yesterday with the Oklahoma Nurses Association, and we are grateful for everything nurses are doing to care for Oklahomans. Nurses are incredibly valuable to our state and its healthcare system, and we are committed to working together on a plan to recruit more nurses to serve in Oklahoma and to find ways to continue to support them as we protect the health and lives of Oklahomans.”


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