Natalie Shepherd, a surgical tech student, takes a break from her shift at Ocean Springs Hospital in Ocean Springs, Miss., Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022. Credit: Eric Shelton/Mississippi Today

Mississippi hospitals have about 3,000 total nursing vacancies — equivalent to one-fifth of the state’s entire nursing workforce — according to a recent survey from the Mississippi Hospital Association.

Health care workers, especially nurses, have left the state during the pandemic to better paying jobs with temp companies or hospitals outside of Mississippi. As a result of the shortage and the omicron variant surge, hospitals in the state have been forced to cut capacities by closing beds.

Singing River Health System’s three Gulf Coast hospitals currently have more than 200 nursing vacancies, 50 of which are at Ocean Springs Hospital. The challenges the hospital system faces were highlighted in The New York Times’ Feb. 18 episode of The Daily.

In this photo gallery, Mississippi Today went inside the walls of Ocean Springs Hospital to follow a day in the life of the health care workers and patients there.

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Eric J. Shelton was a 2018 corps member in Report for America, and joined the team as our first photojournalist. A native of Columbia, Miss., Eric earned his bachelor’s in photojournalism from the University of Southern Mississippi. He was a multimedia journalist for Abilene Reporter-News, chief photographer for the Hattiesburg American and photo editor for the Killeen Daily Herald before joining our team June 2018. He rejoined Mississippi Today as our health photojournalist in January 2022.