UTICA, NY - Penny Sullivan is a registered nurse with MVHS, working at St. Luke's Hospital. The global pandemic and a nursing shortage have joined forces to make this the most challenging time of her career.
"Staffing is a huge huge issue right now. In the 33 years I've been there, I have never seen it this bad," says Sullivan. "I do the schedule and I hand it in to my manager and I'm just like 'I just don't have enough bodies to fill these spots.' I'm supposed to have at least five or six nurses on a night, and I'm three and four."
Frantically running around for an entire shift with no break or lunch, without enough of them to provide the care they would like, is taking its toll on the nurses who do show up every day.
"I have nurses crying almost on a daily basis. It's really sad," says Sullivan.
MVHS Chief Physician Executive, Dr. Kent Hall, says the nursing shortage existed long before the pandemic took hold.
"As we have tried to fill holes, we've actually reached out to staffing companies, things like that, one of whom said, 'yeah, we have 18,000 requests that we can't fill' and so that's just one example of how difficult it is to get staffing," says Hall. Hall says MVHS is aware of the shortage, and doing what they can to address it.
Hall says management meets twice daily, to address care and staffing.
"What is the current staffing? Where are we thin? How can we move people around to minimize the thinness of it?"
Sometimes, those management meetings involve putting management on the floor.
"We've also asked our managers and our clinicians to be on the units and help suppport patient care to add some additional resources," says Chief Nursing Officer, Linda Miller.
Sullivan says nurses are called in for endless overtime, and many don't want to work above and beyond their regularly-scheduled shift.
"We need to make some changes really quickly," says Sullivan