JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Hospitals across the country are battling a nursing shortage. Recently, Mississippi hospitals have seen about a third of their nurses leave for other jobs, which are often out of state.

State medical leaders said it’s getting harder to keep nurses in Mississippi because outside agencies are able to offer better pay.

Nationally, the percentage of nurses that work in hospitals is about 60 to 65% on average. That number recently dropped to 55%. In Mississippi, the average is at 40 to 45%.

Kim Hoover is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the Mississippi Hospital Association. She said nurses tend to leave in groups to either nursing agencies, or they become travel nurses.

With such a high decline in employees, Hoover said they’re digging into how many patients can be seen at a reasonable time, and they’re having to leave beds empty.

“Just because you have beds doesn’t mean you can take patients to fill all of those beds, so they’re having to close beds down. They’re having to close beds just on their regular units. They’re closing them in the intensive care units,” said Hoover.

She said the cost of labor for hospitals has gone up $24 billion in one year.