Home Health News Rural hospitals in Alabama struggle to find enough nurses to face COVID-19

Rural hospitals in Alabama struggle to find enough nurses to face COVID-19

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J.W. Cowan started his profession 40 years in the past attempting to recruit nurses to what he now calls “forgotten man’s territory” in rural Alabama.

“A good rural nurse, I don’t know of anything that’s any tougher than that,” he mentioned. “They persevere. They put the community, they put the hospital first, and my hat just goes out to them.”

Today, he’s nonetheless attempting to recruit nurses to Choctaw County close to Mississippi, besides he’s doing it in a pandemic. And the job has solely gotten more durable and nurses are extra in demand throughout the nation, making it even more durable to workers rural hospitals.

Cowan is an administrator at Choctaw General Hospital. His workers are working back-to-back, 12-hour shifts throughout the pandemic. One nurse labored a 96-hour week, and it’s common for nurses to work seven days in a row to preserve the hospital staffed.

Like at Choctaw General, hospitals throughout Alabama are reporting a scarcity of nurses. Cases of COVID-19 are spiking forward of a vacation season that specialists concern might improve the speed of unfold.

COVID-19 is time consuming for employees as a result of sufferers require intensive care. Yet an growing variety of workers are out sick as a result of they had been contaminated by or uncovered to COVID-19, mentioned Alabama Hospital Association President Don Williamson.

He mentioned many Alabama hospitals had been already short-staffed earlier than the pandemic.

“Right now, we are in a very worrying position, and I think an increasingly unstable position relative to COVID,” mentioned Williamson, including that the state’s 7-day common for hospitalizations has practically doubled in the final 5 weeks.

Choctaw Hospital in Butler is brief 5 nurses and a lab person, mentioned Cowan. Several of the hospital’s nurses are at dwelling with COVID-19. Two could by no means return as a result of their sickness was so extreme. Yet it’s not straightforward to carry in reinforcements.

Williamson says he’s spent hours this week on the cellphone with hospitals who face staffing shortages to deal with the inflow of COVID sufferers. Some, like University of Alabama at Birmingham, aren’t going through an instantaneous staffing scarcity.

“(Most nurses) want the glamor and lights of Birmingham, Mobile and Tuscaloosa. They don’t want to come to Butler, Alabama,” mentioned Cowan.

Hospitals in bigger city areas have a shot at competing for touring nurses in a nationwide bidding warfare that has driven up nursing salaries during the pandemic surge, typically drawing nurses in-state away from smaller, rural hospitals to larger paying gigs in cities.

“It certainly has been a challenge to recruit nurses because the market has been very competitive and a lot of that is due to COVID,” mentioned Andy North, spokesman for DCH Hospital in Tuscaloosa.

Baptist Health hospitals, with places in Montgomery and Prattville, have had success attracting and retaining some journey nurses by selling their supportive office tradition, mentioned spokesperson Kadie Agnew.

“Sometimes you have to be creative,” she mentioned. “Some (nurses) have decided to stay long-term because they’ve enjoyed it here and become really a part of the Baptist family.”

Right now, the hospital is discovering it difficult to workers journey nurses, as many have carried out so properly this 12 months, they’re taking the vacations off, mentioned Agnew.

In north Alabama, the place hospitals are seeing a number of the state’s greatest rise in COVID-19 circumstances this month, Huntsville Hospital stories it doesn’t face a staffing scarcity. Nearby in Athens there’s a considerably totally different story.

At the Athens-Limestone hospital, a 71-bed acute facility that serves the county simply west of Huntsville, there’s a relative lull in COVID-19 from earlier this month when 22 COVID sufferers had been hospitalized.

Traci Collins, interim president and chief nursing officer, says exams this week present circumstances are steeply on the rise once more. She says staffing shortages and having workers out sick with COVID-19 represents a double whammy.

And then there’s what she calls “COVID fatigue” for healthcare employees.

“People are just really, really tired. Its physically, emotionally deteriorating,” she mentioned of the illness’s unpredictable course and the calls for of sporting full PPE and of administering a barrage of medicines and supplemental oxygen to sufferers.

“I think it’s been very hard on our staff to see these patients come in in a bad state, get better and decline.”

Hospitals will do what’s wanted to take care of COVID-19 sufferers, mentioned Williamson. That could imply redirecting workers from different components of the hospital to the COVID-19 ward.

He mentioned hospitals are in dialog about if and when to as soon as once more pause elective procedures, requiring some sufferers to delay therapies addressing power, painful health issues.

For the state’s hospitals already going through monetary challenges, repeating such a transfer represents an enormous monetary loss. The first six weeks of the state-mandated moratorium on elective procedures this spring value Alabama hospitals $739 million, in accordance to Williamson.

However the rising calls for of COVID-19 are addressed, he mentioned, it’s inevitable that circumstances will proceed to rise this winter, surpassing the surge in the spring.

“I think it’s almost a foregone conclusion that we’re going to exceed our previous worst case scenario, and we’re going to find ourselves dealing, frankly, with a fairly stressed healthcare system.”

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