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"We are tired." Nurse describes staffing challenges, exhaustion and pride inside hospitals

Posted at 9:08 PM, Dec 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-06 21:10:30-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — As Western New York reaches new daily records of COVID-19 patients in area hospitals, healthcare workers are facing significant staffing challenges.

"We spend a lot of time each day, starting at four o'clock, five o'clock in the morning, looking at what resources we have available for the day, who should best be in what space, who we need to move around," said Jessica Visser, VP of patient care services at Sisters of Charity Hospital and its St. Joseph's Campus.

Catholic Health has once again designated St. Josephs campus as the primary COVID-19 relief valve for this second wave. However, due to the sheer volume of COVID cases, other hospitals, including Sisters of Charity on Main Street in Buffalo, are also admitting patients.

Unlike in the spring, hospitals do not have the same benefit of acquiring many out-of-state nurses to support their workforce. As a result, every logistical staffing decision must be carefully considered.

"We really have to look at skill sets and who should be in the ICU, who should support the ICU nurses, and where are people comfortable and competent based on what their previous roles and experiences have been," said Visser.

Nurses are picking up extra hours to make sure hospitals have the adequate personnel to take care of patients.

"We are tired. The first wave was different. We went into it with this sense of energy, we didn't know what we were going to deal with," said Visser. "But just having to deal with it for such a long period of time, and now to see so many more patients coming in again, it's challenging, it's exhausting."

Despite the emotional challenges nurses across Western New York face, there are shining moments of pride and inspiration.

Nurses have been volunteering to get extra training so that they can support ICU staff.

The Emergency Department workers at St. Joe's, who have been working alongside the ICU workers, started a program to help each other cope with the burdens they face.

"They would get together in the evenings over Zoom and talk about what had happened during the day," said Visser. "They really gathered together and supported each other. And I think, seeing those kinds of examples and seeing how the different teams support one another is inspiring and encouraging for me. I take a lot of energy from that."

Visser says she and her team gain strength from knowing how many people's lives are positively impacted by their care.

"We're nurses. We keep showing up."