Health care workers share struggles amid surge in COVID-19 cases, staffing shortages

Posted at 6:38 PM, Jan 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-03 19:38:53-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As hospitals across the Kansas City metro are struggling with staffing shortages amid rising COVID-19 cases, health care workers still working are feeling the effect.

Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System, said Monday of the health system's 13,500 employees, 500 are currently out.

Some of that group include those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and others are those who have been exposed and are isolating while waiting for test results.

With so many workers out, it creates an added burden on those who aren't.

Intensive care unit nurse manager Casey Pickering, said morale is already incredibly low among health care workers.

"None of us thought we were going to be here at this point almost two years into it, and this time a year ago when we were having these conversations a lot of us were having immense hope in regard to the fact that a vaccine had come out and we had hope we were going to get through this, and it's a very different feeling right now," Pickering said.

Pickering said health care workers have a hard time finding hope when it seems as if everyone else has moved on with their lives.

"Health care providers, we're all still here, and we're very much still in it, and we're dealing with the grief and the loss and the struggle every day so we just kind of feel stuck from the rest of the world," Pickering said.

Jennifer Caldwell, a registered nurse in the ICU at Research Medical Center, said her biggest frustrations right now are staffing shortages and the amount of people still not vaccinated.

It's hard for her to put into words what it's like to work in health care right now.

"It's difficult, that seems like such a word that is minimizing what it's like, it's almost impossible," Caldwell said.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control shortened the isolation time for health care workers in anticipating of a surge in Omicron cases.

Caldwell said she disagrees with the agency's change, which also allows isolation time be cut further if there are staffing shortages.

"The new guidelines from the CDC feel a lot like the CDC kowtowing to corporations to keep workers in buildings so they can keep profits up," Caldwell said.

Despite the struggles, Caldwell said she'll keep showing up for her patients every day because helping them is her calling.

"I don't see any future in which I'm not a nurse," Caldwell said.