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"The Calm Before The Storm" Laying Nurses Off To Prepare For A Pandemic Surge

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by NurseB.MN NurseB.MN (New) New Nurse

NurseB.MN has 2 years experience and specializes in Registered nurse on a surgical specialties unit.

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Do you fear being laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

This article discusses the struggles of one hospital’s nurses going through what seems to be just the beginning of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. While many hospitals are overwhelmed, understaffed and without equipment some are laying off their nurses and cutting back their hours.

"The Calm Before The Storm" Laying Nurses Off To Prepare For A Pandemic Surge
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Hospitals and Nurses Are Overwhelmed

Throughout the US many hospitals are overwhelmed with the ongoing pandemic of the COVID-19 virus. They are short-staffed on nurses forcing them to work long overtime hours. Many are so overwhelmed that they are hiring travel nurses to make up for the shortage. I am currently an RN at a hospital in Minneapolis MN and am experiencing the complete opposite of this.

Social-Distancing?

I work on a floor consisting mainly of elective, emergent as well as non- emergent surgeries. A little over two weeks ago all elective surgeries were postponed and absolutely no patient visitors are allowed in the hospital. Initially they told us this decision was made to promote people to stay home (social distancing) and to conserve hospital beds, ventilators, monitors and other critical supplies that will be needed for this pandemic. This has left the hospital quiet and very empty compared to the normal chaos of the typical daily pace. Patients are anxious and feeling alone not being able to have family members with them for support. Family members are confused and scared, constantly calling to get updates on their loved ones’ condition. As nurses we are taking on a lot of stress relaying messages between doctors and families, consoling people that are sad or upset, and trying to be positive to help shed some light on this situation.

Hospitals are Unprepared

It seems as though the hospital did not know how to prepare for this type of crisis. After the first influx of patients being tested it took weeks to figure out where they would put these patients and how we would get proper protective equipment. They now have elected one of our medical floors to take all of the COVID rule-out and positive tested patients. In addition, some ICU beds have been dedicated to caring for the critically ill patients needing ventilators. You can see and hear the frustration with this decision because now all the responsibility to care for these patients is only on a select few units. They are putting themselves as well as their families at risk to be exposed to this virus. While these nurses are hard at work and in a high-stress environment, other floors have completely shut down or decreased their patient populations immensely. This includes the OR, care suites, surgical specialties, orthopedic and observation units. This last week many nurses have been called off to stay home or put on low need due to the decreased census of patients throughout the hospital. Nurses are being floated every day to sit at door entrances for hours, screening visitors trying to enter the hospital. Other nurses are teaching classes about how to put on and take off PPE equipment. Some are walking around going to every unit basically begging to find any place they can help. I have done so myself and can speak for most of the nurses that we all feel a little useless not being able to care for patients.

Financial Struggle Equals Threat of Lay-Off

This week we received notice that the hospital is struggling financially due to this pandemic. No surgeries and a major decrease in admissions mean no money coming into the system. In the next month they will be cutting back nurses’ hours, laying people off, or paying them a minimum of 50% of their FTE. The rationale for this is to conserve the hospital revenue as much as they can; all to prepare and utilize it to stock up on PPE equipment for the upcoming months when COVID numbers are expected to skyrocket.

Calm Before the Storm?

It is uneasy and hard to tell if this is truly the calm before the storm or if many nurses will have to apply for unemployment alongside a large number of other Americans. People see the news and expect all US nurses to be the ones on the front line helping patients and communities through this crisis. It is truly heartbreaking to feel that you may have to look for a new job at the end of this or could be thrown back into a completely unorganized surge of ill patients, without proper training or equipment. Nurses are full of anxiety and on edge not knowing what the future holds for us in our career. This pandemic is truly affecting everyone in a different way, causing lots of uncertainty and stress. I just hope that some clarity can be shed soon so we can properly prepare for this and try to prevent the spread of this virus to our population and healthcare workers.

NurseB.MN is a Registered Nurse on a surgical specialties unit.

1 Article; 305 Profile Views; 6 Posts

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Curious1alwys has 8 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in tele, ASC, cardiac rehab.

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For sure, such a strange situation right now. Just waiting to see how it plays out, with bated breath, like nearly everyone else I suppose.

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spotangel has 31 years experience as a BSN, MSN, DNP, RN, APRN, NP and specializes in ED,Tele,Med surg, ADN,outpatient,homecare,LTC,Peds.

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Ask for cross training and access in the meantime and the PPE situation as when you get hit you would will be thrown into units without training

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RosesrReder has 16 years experience as a RN and specializes in NICU/PICU/OR.

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There has got to be more to this fiasco then we understand. I don’t think it’s solely on preparedness, because I have not been working since the week of March 16 as I am an operating room nurse. We have become Covid central in my metropolitan town and they are bringing in massive amounts of travelers to help.

They are begging for retired healthcare professionals to come back in our quickly on boarding them. The hospital is also allowing ungraduated nursing students to work as nurses during the pandemic.

they are begging for retired healthcare professionals to come back and are quickly on boarding them. The hospital is also allowing ungraduated nursing students to work as nurses during a pandemic.

meanwhile, you have a ton of talented nurses who are asked to stay home on call at the rate of three dollars an hour in case and emergent sea case comes in. Many of us have a ton of experience in other areas of nursing including ICU and ER. We are being told it Hass to be recent and their definition of recent is unclear.

this is a right to work state and our hospital systems are still looking at profit during this pandemic. What is going to happen here shortly is many of my peers are looking for other jobs or even taking travel assignments.

when the pandemic is over, Surgical services will be booming and back in business; however, there won’t be enough nurses or scrub technicians.

I am very lucky that I had been going through the process through the VA and found a job in another state, so I will be heading there in a week.

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The disconnect is disheartening. We are having to take low-census days using our vacation but are also being told that when the 💩 hits the fan then we'll be called back to work in-house in the ICU. They say they can't find "anything" for us to do now so they won't pay us but as soon as they desperately need us they'll be happy to pay us less than the in-patient nurses make to take on the same load and risk. I sort of feel like a mistress. 😕

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2 hours ago, RosesrReder said:

There has got to be more to this fiasco then we understand. I don’t think it’s solely on preparedness, because I have not been working since the week of March 16 as I am an operating room nurse. We have become Covid central in my metropolitan town and they are bringing in massive amounts of travelers to help.

They are begging for retired healthcare professionals to come back in our quickly on boarding them. The hospital is also allowing ungraduated nursing students to work as nurses during the pandemic.

they are begging for retired healthcare professionals to come back and are quickly on boarding them. The hospital is also allowing ungraduated nursing students to work as nurses during a pandemic.

meanwhile, you have a ton of talented nurses who are asked to stay home on call at the rate of three dollars an hour in case and emergent sea case comes in. Many of us have a ton of experience in other areas of nursing including ICU and ER. We are being told it Hass to be recent and their definition of recent is unclear.

this is a right to work state and our hospital systems are still looking at profit during this pandemic. What is going to happen here shortly is many of my peers are looking for other jobs or even taking travel assignments.

when the pandemic is over, Surgical services will be booming and back in business; however, there won’t be enough nurses or scrub technicians.

I am very lucky that I had been going through the process through the VA and found a job in another state, so I will be heading there in a week.

I agree that there is either more to this or could it be that admins and CEO's are so enamored with the news releases that they lay off currently employed nurses and get travel nurses instead? Or are they simply replacing all the paid nurses and are instead, using the thousands of nursing volunteers? I know too many nurses at hospitals that have downsized so it would seem to me that the volunteer nurses are actually HURTING our profession, rather than helping the greater good.

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2 minutes ago, LockportRN said:

I know too many nurses at hospitals that have downsized so it would seem to me that the volunteer nurses are actually HURTING our profession, rather than helping the greater good.

Where have you heard of nurses volunteering? Do you mean working for free or volunteering to help in other states but still getting paid?

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Nurse VOLUNTEERS. My state and from what I have read here, there are several states where the governor's have put out an alert asking for nurse volunteers. These are unpaid positions, you pay to get there, get a hotel, meals and this all with the understanding that if you loose your regular job because of this, they will not take responsibility.

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And there are people actually doing this? Well, that's just stupid. Why would anyone risk their livelihood and possibly their lives for something like this? Are there really thousands doing it? Not happening in my state.

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10 minutes ago, LockportRN said:

Nurse VOLUNTEERS. My state and from what I have read here, there are several states where the governor's have put out an alert asking for nurse volunteers. These are unpaid positions, you pay to get there, get a hotel, meals and this all with the understanding that if you loose your regular job because of this, they will not take responsibility.

I signed up for this in CA but the governor did say they were going to pay a salary. Every day I check the website and it's blank. There is just nothing happening. The irony here of course, is that there's a pandemic with reported masses of sick people, and nurses are being laid off because hospitals are empty.

Time to check the other states' needs. I have to work. If this goes on forever then so be it, but I'll bet there are few of us financially stable enough to spend the next few months (or years) inside the house without a paycheck.

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1 hour ago, zillynurz said:

I signed up for this in CA but the governor did say they were going to pay a salary. Every day I check the website and it's blank. There is just nothing happening. The irony here of course, is that there's a pandemic with reported masses of sick people, and nurses are being laid off because hospitals are empty.

Time to check the other states' needs. I have to work. If this goes on forever then so be it, but I'll bet there are few of us financially stable enough to spend the next few months (or years) inside the house without a paycheck.

I am in the same situation as you! I applied to the California Health Corps, but I havent heard anything back bedsides “your application was recieved.” My hospital is very low census and I’m worried I’m going to get cut.

Try looking into CAL-MAT. They responded to me almost immediately and offered me a position.

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4 hours ago, Wuzzie said:

The disconnect is disheartening. We are having to take low-census days using our vacation but are also being told that when the 💩 hits the fan then we'll be called back to work in-house in the ICU. They say they can't find "anything" for us to do now so they won't pay us but as soon as they desperately need us they'll be happy to pay us less than the in-patient nurses make to take on the same load and risk. I sort of feel like a mistress. 😕

No, mistresses get paid their worth.

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