The Third Surge is Breaking Healthcare Workers

November 18, 2020 by Christen Aldrich

Filed under COVID-19 for Employers, COVID-19 for the Workforce, Engagement & Morale

Last modified November 19, 2020

According to this recent piece from The Atlantic, healthcare workers are facing a third pandemic surge that is bigger and broader than the previous two. Currently in the U.S., states are reporting more people in the hospital with COVID-19 than at any other point previously this year. The patient population is increasing fast – up 40% more than it was two weeks ago.

Sadly, emergency rooms are starting to fill again as well. Utah is currently reporting 2,500 confirmed COVID cases a day – roughly four times its summer peak. Nathan Hatton, a pulmonary specialist at the University of Utah Hospital, says that his intensive-care unit is housing twice as many patients as it normally does. His shifts usually last 12 to 24 hours, but can stretch to 36. “There are times I’ll come in in the morning, see patients, work that night, work all the next day, and then go home.” When asked how many such shifts he has had to do, he replied, “Too many.”

While hospitals have put their pandemic plans into action, adding more beds and creating makeshift COVID-19 wards, there are simply not enough nurses, doctors, and other specialists to staff those beds. COVID-19 patients require twice as much attention as a typical intensive-care-unit patient, for three times the normal length of stay. “It was doable over the summer, but now it’s just too much,” says Whitney Neville, a nurse based in Iowa. “Last Monday we had 25 patients waiting in the emergency department. They had been admitted but there was no one to take care of them.” When asked how much slack the system has left, Neville responded “There is none.”

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