‘When the numbers go up, our morale goes down:’ ICU nurses discuss COVID increase

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 6:06 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Nurses are battling COVID in hospitals and long-term care facilities daily, including here in Region 8. Nurses at NEA Baptist say it’s beginning to feel like deja vu.

They were on the frontlines last year and now, they hope the number of COVID cases won’t reach that point again.

Just weeks ago, the ICU at NEA Baptist Hospital had one-to-three patients with COVID. Now, they have as many as 15 patients. It means that a third of their ICU units are filled with patients.

“When the numbers go up, our morale goes down,” ICU nurse Heath Murdock said. “It’s been tough.”

Murdock said helping patients fight COVID has been challenging mentally.

“Not just for [our] nursing staff, but the families too,” Murdock said. “These families come in -- it’s not just one family member we’ve had, four, five family members come in -- it’s just mentally exhausting for everybody.”

Murdock says a staffing shortage has only added to the mental battle.

With thousands of new cases over the past few weeks and as hospitalizations rise, nurses say it’s starting to feel like last year again.

“Right now, I feel like everyone kind of has a little bit of PTSD from last year, of everything that hit us,” ICU nurse Taylor Gray said.

For Gray, dealing with COVID patients is not new.

“Every morning, we do chest X-rays to see if the pneumonia is progressing or if it’s responding to antibiotics,” Gray said. “We change those antibiotics depending on their sensitivities, we give steroids to help with any lung inflammation.”

Gray and Murdock have seen the worst of the worst with COVID patients. They know how hard COVID can hit people. It’s a message they want to spread to the community.

“You don’t want to be negative, but at the same time, you want to be real, and you want them to know how serious it is and how hard it can hit people and how bad it hurts people,” Gray said. “We see the demise and we see how hard people fight it and to see people that don’t get vaccinated or don’t wear a mask and are spreading the virus around, it is hard.”

With the recent surge in COVID cases, National Nurses United has sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urging them to update their COVID guidelines to recommend mask-wearing in public, regardless of vaccination status.

At NEA Baptist, nurses urge you to get the COVID vaccine if you haven’t already.

NEA Baptist has a walk-in clinic on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

All vaccination locations can be found on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website.

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