Nurses Taking On Too Many Cases

Photo by Luis Melendez on Unsplash

Nurses around the country are experiencing a large influx of patients added to their rounds due to the large number of new COVID-19 cases. It’s causing many to quit, some even in the middle of their shifts because they are so overwhelmed.

“Nurses are physically tired and emotionally worn out,” said Wendy Edwards, MSN, APRN, RNP-BC. “The long months of working in survival mode have taken its toll.”

Edwards said that “fear, exhaustion, and depression” have plagued nurses since the onset of the pandemic.

“Fear to get COVID, to bring it home to loved ones, the obsession to sanitize everything again just in case you missed a spot,” Edwards said. “Witnessing the death of countless patients in isolation, without their families and loved ones, in despair and loneliness, has traumatized us.”

The safety and care of patients has been disrupted because nurses have had to double up their patient load. At some hospitals, they are turning patients away or sending them home early, which takes a toll on their long-term health.

Edwards said last year, elective procedures and surgeries were delayed so they could have enough staff for COVID patients. During those early days in the pandemic, the expectation was high for COVID cases, so much so that hospitals made dedicating areas specifically to house those individuals. However, it was not as much of a necessity as it may be now, as COVID cases are at climbing rate.

“The current situation has put hospitals and emergency rooms in a predicament. They have been forced to re-route patients to other facilities with availability. A few weeks ago, two ER sin the DFW closed as they lack the necessary number of nurses to care for patients. Hospitals are almost at full capacity and available ICU beds are fewer, “said Edwards.

She described a situation in one of the facilities where she worked, where patients were lined up on stretchers in the hallways of the ER, separated only by a divider.

“The patients that are stable enough and without severe symptoms are sent home with instructions to monitors themselves and return if their symptoms worsen,” she said. “Those patients that are in critical condition, would remain and be treated in the ER until a bed becomes available, which can take up to 24 hours.”

Nurses are in short supply now. New training programs and incentives offer promise to fill those inadequacies. However, when a new nurse is available for work, they will struggle to find sufficient training to work at the where hospitals they are so desperately needed.

“Training a newly graduated nurse takes at least 3 months. New hires need orientation to unfamiliar systems and protocols. A new graduate nurse needs shadowing, time to learn the ropes of the job, and to adjust to flying solo,” said Edwards. “How can this be adequately done when experienced nurses are juggling their responsibilities, multiple patients, and the stressful demands of working with sick COVID patients?”

Getting vaccinated would cut down on COVID cases and how many patients nurses must care for at one time, said Edwards. They will be able to focus on quality care, not necessity.

As of Sept. 1, nearly 48 percent of Dallas County citizens are fully vaccinated, which reflects the heavy presence in filled hospitals. Most patients with COVID have not received the vaccine.

“People need to know and understand that we are committed to put on our scrubs and do the work, but that we desperately need their help,” Edwards said. “Get vaccinated if you have not done so yet. The risk of a serious adverse effect is so miniscule compared to risks of severe illness and death after contracting COVID. Do not underestimate what COVID can do to you and your loved ones.”

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