This Arkansas hospital is so short of nurses in this new wave of Covid-19 that it offers a signing bonus of $ 25,000


A registered nurse at a University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) facility in Little Rock, Gardner told CNN she essentially had to learn nursing on the fly during the Covid-19 pandemic, which, according to her, had started eight months after the start of her nursing career.

Not only that, but seeing constant deaths, working long shifts, and having a shortage of healthcare workers – especially nurses – left Gardner exhausted.

“I had times where I sat in my car and cried before I came to work, before I walked in. I’m … literally sitting there and cried because I didn’t know in what I was entering., “she said.

Burnout and staff shortages plague the Arkansas health system in addition to the new Covid-19 Delta variant. Staff shortages are affecting morale to the point that some employees leave work in the middle of their shifts, said Dr Cam Patterson, Chancellor of UAMS. Others have considered taking early retirement.

UAMS currently has around 360 vacancies for health care providers, including 230 vacancies just for nurses, Patterson said. UAMS is so desperate to find nurses that it’s willing to pay signing bonuses of up to $ 25,000 – but some medical staff say it’s not about money, it’s about their health and mental well-being, and that no amount of money can change that.

“The teams are stretched. People are frustrated. People are very tired,” Patterson said. “We have lost a significant number of positions here because we just don’t have enough nurses that we can recruit to come here and help us take care of the patients.”

As the Delta variant ravages communities across the United States, Arkansas has averaged more than 1,940 new daily cases of Covid-19 over the past week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. 1,213 Covid-19 patients were in Arkansas hospitals as of Wednesday – a level not seen since January, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And that’s well up from the state’s 2021 low – 159 patients on April 3. The state’s peak so far this year was 1,316 on Jan. 10, according to the HHS.

Greg Thompson, executive director of Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services (MEMS) which provides emergency and non-emergency ambulance services for central Arkansas, told CNN his business has seen a steady increase in calls “almost daily” for the past two months. The number of calls increased by 25 to 40% on some days, he said.

“Normally we’ll make around 300, 400 calls a day, and our transports are normally around 200. We’re running around 260 or more a day right now,” Thompson said.

Then when the ambulances arrive at the hospital, there are not enough beds, which makes the ambulances temporary hospital rooms.

“There are times when we go into the ER and there just isn’t a bed, so we’ll just have to hold the patient on our bed against the wall, waiting for something to come off so they can. withdraw it, ”he said. . “Normally we should be able to be out of the hospital in less than 30 minutes. But sometimes we see extremes of an hour to three hours.”

Arkansas had the third highest number of daily new cases per capita over a week Tuesday, with 64 new cases per day per 100,000 people, according to data from Johns Hopkins. That’s below Louisiana, at 93, and Florida, at 74.

The data came the same day Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he regretted approving a statewide ban on face mask warrants earlier this year. The bill, SB 590, was introduced in late March and was finally passed by both houses of the Arkansas GOP-led General Assembly in April.
Arkansas GOP Governor Says He Deplores Ban on Mask Warrants As Covid-19 Cases Rise

Hutchinson called the state legislature into extraordinary session in an attempt to change the law.

“Looking back, I wish it hadn’t become law,” Hutchinson said at a press conference on Tuesday. “But it is the law, and the only chance we have is to either change it or have the courts say it has an unconstitutional basis.”

UAMS health professionals who spoke to CNN said most of the patients they see are not vaccinated and it hurts them not to see people wearing masks in public.

“It is getting maddening. I don’t know if I can necessarily be angry with the patient himself or the general public,” said Dr Marc Phan, emergency and intensive care physician at UAMS. “I think we just need not to necessarily ignore that aspect, but embrace them, try to bring them in and try to tell them the importance of the vaccine and how it can change their lives.”

Gardner, the nurse for UAMS, said she often wonders while treating patients why people don’t get vaccinated. She said she understands, however, that she needs to put her biases aside “because at the end of the day it’s your patient, it’s her choice.”

“As nurses we have a job to do,” she said. “We can’t let that dictate how we feel and how we treat them.”

CNN’s Martin Savidge and Maria Cartaya reported from Little Rock, and Amir Vera and Jason Hanna reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.


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