COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The Ohio Nurses Association said hospitals across the state will soon be in a crisis if they aren’t already.

The association said the number of nurses was low before the COVID-19 pandemic and the burnout from the virus has caused more nurses to quit.

Nurses said they’re quitting because they feel like they have no other choice as low staff levels are causing mandatory overtime, which is leading to even more burnout.

“It’s an incredible strain right now and it’s now, you know, it’s not sustainable,” said Rick Lucas, president of Ohio State University’s nurses’ organization.

On the job for 18 years, he’s watched as more people leave nursing and more work is added for those who stay.

“So when nurses don’t have enough staff to care for patients and they go in day in day out and can’t meet patient care needs, when people fall and get hurt, people suffer severe injury in our hospital that could be prevented if we otherwise had what we needed, that’s work that people can’t morally commit to and so they’re leaving because there’s this conflict,” Lucas said.

Lucas was one of the professionals who spoke with lawmakers during Nurses’ Day at the Ohio Statehouse.

“So we’re looking for some significant commitments from lawmakers and from hospital administrators to do better, to invest in nurses, to invest in our communities and everyone’s health and well-being,” he said.

“We need to do what we can at the state level to work with folks around the country and bringing those folks here, work with individual agencies to try and find temp help and ultimately recruit full-time people who are willing to come to Ohio,” said Ohio Rep. Dick Stein (R-District 57).

Lucas believes it’s not an issue of money, but rather priorities, saying if hospital systems can spend millions on new buildings, they can also invest in the people inside.

“You can have the most state-of-the-art hospital, but patients come to the hospital for nursing care,” he said.

In a statement, the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center said:

“Our top priority is providing safe, high-quality care for our patients. The national shortage of nurses does not necessarily contribute to a patient’s risk for falling. Many other factors play a role in how or why a patient may be at risk. The medical center has a rigorous fall risk assessment and prevention program that uses nationally-recognized best practices, including monitoring technology.”

The Ohio Nurses Association said the organization will return to the Ohio Statehouse for a rally on May 12.