Earlier this month, Nichole Atherton, a Mississippi ICU nurse, resigned, exhausted by the stress, young patients and preventable deaths that overwhelmed state hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It seems heroic,” Atherton of Singing River Ocean Springs Hospital told Citizen Free Press. “But it’s not what it is. It’s sweaty and hard and chaotic and bloody. And it’s hard to live in the middle of this every day and then go home and live a normal life.”
Mississippi now has at least 2,000 fewer nurses than at the beginning of the year, according to the Mississippi Hospital Association’s Center for Quality and Workforce. The staff shortage adds to mounting pressure on the state’s hospital system. Both factors happen, in large part, due to the covid-19 pandemic.
When asked if the healthcare system is reaching a breaking point, Singing River Personal Care Nursing Manager Buddy Grager said, “I think we’re already broke.”
State epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said Tuesday that Mississippi set a new record for COVID-19-related deaths. And of the 875 ICU beds that are staffed across the state, more than 93% are in use and more than 63% are occupied by COVID-19 patients, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services. United.
Singing River hospital system director Lee Bond called on the state to use some of its $ 1.8 billion in COVID-19 relief to provide retention bonuses in hopes of being able to keep some of the thinking nurses. go away.
“Do I think it will fix the problem? Many nurses have told me that this is not about money right now. It is about ‘I need to recharge my battery,'” said Dr. Randy Roth, medical director of Singing River Health System.
Saying goodbye to his colleagues, Atherton felt he couldn’t leave them in the middle of the chaos and decided to put his resignation on hiatus and cut back on working hours. But she is not the only nurse considering leaving.
Difficult decisions in ICU
Melissa Davis has worked as a nurse at Singing River Pascagoula ICU for 17 years, but she told Citizen Free Press that she has never felt a ‘burnout’ like that of the pandemic.
“It’s hard to see a 34-year-old man with a family that can’t survive,” he said through tears. “You can’t describe that.”
For Atherton, fewer staff and more critical patients with COVID-19 also mean more difficult decisions. There have been times when two critically ill patients are in crisis at the same time, and she has to decide which room to run to first, because there are not enough nurses and respiratory therapists to care for both.
Singing River’s health system currently has more than 160 open nursing positions, said director of media relations Sarah Duffey. Since the start of the pandemic, 289 nurses have left.
Reinforcement personnel to face covid-19 in Mississippi
There are some reinforcements on the way. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Tuesday that more than 1,000 healthcare workers have arrived to help address a hospital staff shortage across the state.
Reeves said there are 808 nurses, three registered nurse anesthetists, 22 nurse practitioners, 193 respiratory therapists and 20 paramedics among the officials who were deployed Tuesday morning to 50 hospitals.
“We have been working around the clock to secure additional medical staff through both federal and private sector sources to shore up the staff shortage our hospitals are in. Getting people on site so quickly is a step in the right direction.” Reeves said during a news conference Tuesday.
Duffey told Citizen Free Press that the state has pledged to send 53 registered nurses 18 and respiratory therapists to its three Gulf Coast hospitals. She hopes the first one arrives before the weekend.
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