Overworked and understaffed on COVID unit.

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by TaylorJ TaylorJ (New) New Nurse

I am a new nurse working on what would be considered a stable COVID unit. I work in a nursing home where we only get COVID patients from surrounding nursing homes and hospitals. The stable ones at least. We only have one hall open at the moment. Things had slowed down and our unit was down to 12 COVID patients with one nurse and two CNAs. Until four days ago.

We got 33 new admissions within the last four days. And these new patients aren’t asymptomatic. They are sick. Many of them requiring oxygen and constant monitoring, which I can’t even give because there are so many.

We now have three nurses, 4 CNAs and a med aid working but I still feel so overwhelmed. I just finished day five out of nine. That’s right. NINE DAYS in a row. Typically our shifts are only 8 hours but I fall so behind on my work that I stay 2-3 hours past the time I’m suppose to get off.

I’m exhausted and it seems like management doesn’t care. They keep saying “you’re doing great! You’re a our hero’s!” And buying us pizza like it makes it OK. We’re so short staffed that they have to hire agency nurses but once they find out it’s a COVID unit, half of them end up calling out. I know I signed up for this. I knew it was a COVID unit but I didn’t care. It didn’t scare me. But now, as this new wave is hitting, I want to leave so bad. I worked 10pm to 7am yesterday. Went home and slept. And was back at work by 330pm on the same day.

I’m so tired and frustrated. I know we’re all tired and I feel l'm just complaining and being a big baby. I was so hopeful that there was an end in sight but now I’m not so sure.

I can’t keep doing 10-11 hours days  5, 6, 7 days in a row. I’m getting worn out. I don’t see my husband. I’ve lost 5lbs in the last few days because I don’t get time to eat at work, and when I get off I go straight to bed. Am I just being a baby? 



Has 6 years experience. 1 Article; 253 Posts

Not at all. Contrary to many people's opinions, nurses are not martyrs or angels. Organizations understaff because they want to maximize profits. They expect the nurses to sacrifice them selves on the altar to help them maintain high profit margins. America is one of the richest nations in the world, yet somehow medical facilities can't scrape up PPE, medical equipment or enough staff for nurses to work humanely. Some places won't even give you a chair to sit on!

You are under no obligation to kill yourself for a cynical medical system. Please do walk away if you need to - not everyone is built for these types of nursing situations. Thank you for your bravery in trying to help during this national health crisis.

Tweety, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac. Has 30 years experience. 31,590 Posts

But yourself and your health and well being first and foremost.

You are showing signs of burnout and like you said you can't continue to go on like this.  How much good are you going to be able to do your patients if you get sick or burnout and have to quit.

Kitiger, RN

Specializes in Private Duty Pediatrics. Has 43 years experience. 1,705 Posts

How about you work 40 hours/week. That's what you signed up to do, right? 

If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to keep this up. Either you'll burn out or you'll get sick.

You have to decide that staffing is the nursing home's problem. You may get push-back, from co-workers as well as management, but stand firm. Go to the media if you must. But understand that staffing is not your problem. Coming in to work ready to do a full day's work is your job.

Buy some Glucerna or Ensure or some such. You can drink that down quickly. 

Don't skip meals.

I thank you for working . . . but be kind to yourself. 

Kitiger, RN

Specializes in Private Duty Pediatrics. Has 43 years experience. 1,705 Posts

double entry

Edited by Kitiger


6,262 Posts

Whatever they are going to do when you collapse is what they should do now.

There are options. They just don't want to do them.

If I were you I would certainly factor these things into my decision-making instead of saying that you signed up for "this."

Also: Even if you did sign up for this exact situation, you are allowed to reevaluate. You may decide you should slow down a little before your physical, mental or emotional health forces you to.??

juan de la cruz, MSN, RN, NP

Specializes in APRN, Adult Critical Care, General Cardiology. Has 30 years experience. 9 Articles; 4,338 Posts

OP, what you are doing is not humanly sustainable even outside the context of a pandemic which whether we acknowledge it or not, is an added source of stress.  By working like that, you are bringing down your immune system and putting yourself at risk.  Please sit down with your manager and tell that person you need a break.

juan de la cruz, MSN, RN, NP

Specializes in APRN, Adult Critical Care, General Cardiology. Has 30 years experience. 9 Articles; 4,338 Posts

3 hours ago, JKL33 said:

There are options. They just don't want to do them.

This is actually what irks me about these kinds of stories.  Operators of these facilities aren't necessarily altruistic in their "voluntary" mission to open a COVID unit and take on every patient.  In most cases, they have some funding or federal assistance to open such a program.  They gain financially from this.  But they will sure pull on nurses' heart strings to "answer the call".

CrunchRN, ADN, RN

Specializes in Clinical Research, Outpt Women's Health. Has 25 years experience. 4,423 Posts

You have to draw the line. Tell them you are exhausted and can only work your regular hours for a while. They will find a way. They should have had a better plan when accepting 33 admissions in 4 days. That was nuts.



Specializes in 8 years Telemetry/Med Surg, 5 years Stepdown/PCU. Has 15 years experience. 70 Posts

I would quit! Put yourself and your family first. 



486 Posts

I know that you’re a new nurse, but one day you’ll look back at this regrettably. I say that as someone who in retrospect regrets the little time I spent in SNF/LTC. Total waste of time and my potential, and I’m being modest with that estimation.