Kern County addresses shortage of ICU nurses

Posted at 7:30 PM, Jul 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 22:30:20-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, Kern County hospitals are struggling to keep up. In Thursday's Public Health briefing, a lack of ICU nurses was addressed.

23ABC's Kallyn Hobmann spoke with Adventist Health Bakersfield's president and CEO Sharlet Brigts about these nurses’ duties going beyond just giving their patients physical care. With social distancing preventing normal visitors, nurses are providing patients with the emotional support they would usually receive from friends and family.

"Our nurses are having to be the mother, the father, the sister, the brother, the grandmother, the grandfather. They’re having to be it all for the emotional, the emotional piece," Brigts said.

With rising COVID-19 cases comes a rise in overall demand for ICU nurses. Brigts says Adventist Health is able to meet this need, but they are requesting more help to give their nurses a break.

“We’re just saying we need help as we have our nurses dial back a little bit and make sure they have family time and time to be, you know, to do other things," said Brigts.

And it’s not just the nurses being impacted. Brigts says COVID-19’s intense demand reaches every part of the hospital.

“Everybody has to step in and it really is pressure everywhere in the hospital. As we’re heading this pandemic, there’s really no relief," she said. "You always have times of relief where you have less patients and you can kind of take a little bit of breath and now we’re having [the] constant flow in and out.”

In Thursday's Public Health conference, Kern Medical Chief Executive Officer Russell Judd said Kern County will be recruiting more help for our hospitals.

“Particularly we are focusing now on ICU nurses. They don’t live in our community. There is not enough RN's that live in Kern County," Judd said.

Judd recognizes there is a chance this increase in staffing proves to be unnecessary, but says it is better to act on the side of caution.

“The alternative is a much greater risk. Much better to have the staff available than to put ourselves in a situation where individuals need care and it can not be provided," he said.

Judd also said next steps include focusing on smaller, rural hospitals, providing them with extra staffing for incoming patients as well.