Coronavirus Coverage from KARK

Arkansas hospital shortages taking their toll on nurses

Coronavirus

BATESVILLE, Ark. – Hospitals across the US are dealing with staffing shortages even before the pandemic but now Covid has exacerbated the issue. 

On Monday the Arkansas Legislative Council approved $97.3 million of the state’s American Rescue Plan funding to help hospitals retain and recruit hospital staff. 

Nurses have been putting in extra shifts all across the state. 

Brittany Ottaway is an RN for White River Medical Center and says the extra shifts and weight of the task has been taxing. 

“It’s very emotionally and mentally… Mentally draining more than emotionally I think at this point after doing it for a year and a half,” she said. 

The staffing at WRMC has been an issue but now is a glaring one due to Covid cases pushing the hospital to capacity and those patients needing more extensive care. 

“It’s frustrating yes. I think a lot of us get more frustrated with the understaffing and not having enough of us to go around,” Ottaway said. 

She says many have taken on upwards of three extra shifts per week to make sure nobody gets too overwhelmed and to keep WRMC churning. 

“We’re just so short-staffed that we do what we can to make sure our facility is taken care of,” she said. 

President and CEO of WRMC, Gary Paxson, says they do their best to make sure the staff feels appreciated. He knows the allure of working with an agency is out there right now and he does his best to recruit and retain staff. 

“If we know you’re tired, if you want to do this and we can pay you more, we want to keep you here, you’re important to us, we care about you, we recognize the environment, we recognize the opportunities that are out there,” he said. 

He says the approval of the ALC will hopefully help hospitals all across the state but especially smaller ones. 

“So yes, every dollar helps us to be able to funnel that back,” Paxson said. 

Ottaway hopes to get just one more person in their wing. She said the help would go towards more than just minuscule tasks such as paperwork. Ottaway believes they can elevate the level of care with every set of hands they can get. 

 “Having just one extra set of hands on the floor that is overloaded, that person can help more than you think. It would make a huge difference, we would be able to show more compassion.  It wouldn’t be just tasks but more compassion at the bedside,” she said. 

Paxson also said the hospital does more to offer appreciation. He said they offer to prepare meals for staff and their families and bring in food trucks for the staff on Fridays to give them something to look forward to. 

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