Travel clinicians bring relief to hospital workers but surge of patients continues

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Several hospitals in the state continue to operate near and at times beyond capacity as more COVID patients are in need of care. Now local health care workers are getting much needed relief.

Travel nurses and respiratory therapists continue arriving in waves to hospitals across the state, nurses said this was much needed help, but they remain in the thick of getting through this surge of patients.

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It has been a marathon for nurses like Kawailehua Sims, a registered nurse from Straub Medical Center, who cares for some of the sickest COVID patients.

Sims said, “We try to take our breaks when we can, but most of the time we take care of our patients before we take care of ourselves.”

Nurses have been working extra days, as hospitals remain at capacity with the influx of COVID patients, and continued care for other medical needs.

“If we have to come in extra, we come in extra,” Pali Momi Medical Center Registered Nurse Heather Cashman said. “And we’re willing to do whatever it takes until we do get a little bit of relief, which we are glad is coming.”

Fifty travel nurses and respiratory therapists started last week at Hawaii Pacific Health facilities, and another 60 this week.

Meanwhile, the Queen’s Health Systems has welcomed more than 170 relief clinicians.

So far, more than 430 travel clinicians have arrived to hospitals in the islands.

“Our ICU is our biggest concern area, because how sick these patients are coming into our hospital, so we are really ramping up our ICU capability,” The Queen’s Health Systems Chief Nursing Officer Kelly Johnson said. “So we’ll be going from our normal standard of about 57 critical care beds up to 100 critical care beds at the Punchbowl location alone. “

But even with extra medical staff, healthcare workers know the high number of daily COVID cases will eventually be reflected in hospitalizations.

“I’m nervous to see how many more patients are coming in, because we are actually not going to see this for a little bit and we all know that,” Sims said. “I don’t know that we’re in a better position. We’re just kind of taking it one day at a time, and we’re just kind of hoping for the best.”

The extra help gives hospital staff hope that once again they will reconnect with loved ones they have to leave behind everyday to care for others.

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Cashman said, “You know, having that little rest at home is just enough for us to come back and do it all again.”

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