Nearly 46% of Dept. of Corrections nursing positions are unfilled

Published: Aug. 21, 2021 at 5:01 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As cases rise in the community, nurses with the South Carolina Department of Corrections are feeling stretched thin.

“We are definitely there at the tipping point,” said Dept. of Corrections Chief of Nursing Wanda Sermons.

Sermons is looking to hire 109 new nurses, which means 46% of the positions on her team are empty as they tackle their regular responsibilities and COVID-19.

“We are seeing in the past two to three weeks the increase of positive cases in our institutions with our staff as well as some of our inmates. The ones [who] have been vaccinated, we are not really seeing many symptoms,” Sermons said.

And like other places, misinformation is one of the main reasons people are turning down the chance to get vaccinated against the virus.

“It can kind of vary from prison to prison,” said Director Bryan Stirling. “We have 90% of people who want to become vaccinated in some prisons. And some prisons some people will show up and yell ‘don’t get vaccinated and it’s strange but people will just leave the line if they are an influential inmate.”

Sermons says her team is able to “get the job done,” but that by filling these vacant positions she hopes to give her staff some relief, continue to educate inmates about COVID-19 and vaccines and provide regular, preventive care to those in need.

To encourage more people to apply, the Department of Corrections has increased their starting pay rates by about 25%.

Stirling says the $67,000 starting salary doesn’t include a $10,000 signing bonus and lots of opportunities to earn overtime pay.

“It’s a totally different type of nursing, you get a whole bunch of skills that can help you in any healthcare setting once you work in Corrections,” Sermons said.

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