Traumatized and exhausted hospital staff face new wave of Covid cases4 min read

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US Army Critical Care Nurse, Captain Catherine Sison, tends to a non-covid patient on a ventilator at Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn, Michigan, on December 17, 2021.

Jeff Kowalsky | AFP | Getty Images

Hospitals across the country are bracing for another wave of Covid-19 cases that promises to be just as bad, if not worse, than the early days of the pandemic.

But this time, they are facing it with fewer nurses; and the staff that remains is exhausted after almost two years of fighting Covid. The health-care industry lost 450,000 workers from February 2020 through November, mostly nurses and residential-care employees, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported earlier this month.

What’s more, the highly mutated and contagious omicron variant can more easily infect vaccinated employees than previous strains. That threatens to further exacerbate the staffing shortage by sending workers home to isolate, even if they have mild or no symptoms.

Retaining enough workers is Dr. Shereef Elnahal’s “biggest concern right now by far,” he said. At the University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, where Elnahal is president and CEO, the number of employees out of work due to Covid has doubled for the last three consecutive weeks in a row, he said in a phone interview.

“It’s a concern that actually exceeds my concern over omicron-specific hospital admissions based on the trends that we’re seeing,” he said.

Isolation

Preparing

Mental health impact

Trauma and exhaustion

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