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With COVID-19 hospitalizations declining, local hospitals work to hire nurses

Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 6:12 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Just like many of our local hospitals, the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Cebter is battling a staffing shortage.

But officials there are breathing a sigh of relief because COVID-19 hospitalizations are going down.

“We already were down because of the number of Boomers retiring and the lack of enrollment in nursing schools,” Dr. Phoebe Burda said.

Burda is a nurse recruiter at the VA, and she says some nurses even quit early-on in the COVID-19 crisis.

“We have moved staff, and, of course, decreased the number of surgeries and clinic appointments to accommodate our inpatient veterans,” Burda explained.

The nursing shortage is a national problem. The pandemic has only made it worse. It made it harder to hire, so the Department of Veterans Affairs is taking an extra step and holding drive-through resume drop-offs.

“We’ve done our first one, and I received 50 resumes from that first one,” Burda said.

Nurse orientation is now weekly to get nurses on-board quickly.

“As we have more staff available, we will go back to meeting those needs that have been postponed,” Dr. Ioana Chirca from University Hospital said.

Chirca says more staff should be available especially over the next several weeks as COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped dramatically.

“Once people don’t travel as much and don’t gather as much, we will see fewer cases,” Chirca explained.

University discharged 19 COVID patients in the past 24 hours, and AU Health is down to 61 COVID patients. It’s all easing the strain on our health system.

“We may still see some increases, but the hope is we will get enough shots in arms to prevent a significant surge,” Chirca said.

Health officials say the situation is far from over, but our hospitals can be thankful beds are opening up.

“What I do see is a lot less fatigue in the nursing department staff, and you can see that on their faces,” Burda said.

How to apply

All of our local hospitals are hiring nurses right now.

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