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Utah Nurses, ICUs stretched, even as hospitalizations stabilize

(Two workers treating a COVID-19 patient at University of Utah Hospital. Credit: Charlie Ehlert, University of Utah Health, August 19, 2020)

SALT LAKE CITY – COVID-19 hospitalizations have plateaued over the past few weeks in Utah, even so, the ICUs remain packed and nurses are often stretched thin.  

Jen Solomon is a nurse in the cardiovascular ICU at the University of Utah hospital. She, like many of her coworkers, has been pulled in to take care of COVID-19 patients. 

Many nurses have also taken extra shifts to help with patients.

Because of the PPE they have to wear, taking care of people can feel less personal. 

“It feels like a barrier. I’m in this weird suit because I don’t want to be exposed to what you have, but here I am to take care of you. It just feels very unnatural. I can’t imagine what it’s like from their perspective,” Solomon says. 

Although the University of Utah has relaxed its visitation policy, nurses still help patients with Zoom calls so they can communicate with family. 

However, it can also be tough to eat or go to the bathroom during their 12-hour shifts. 

“It takes a good 10 or so minutes to get on all the gear to go in the unit,” Solomon says. “Every time you leave, you have to wipe it down and do the process again when you go in. You just can’t afford…to take that much time away from the bedside.” 

Caring for so many patients has its challenges. 

“We have patients that, if they’re very, very sick, ideally they’re staffed one nurse to one patient. Sometimes we’re not able to do that. Or you’re taking care of two patients that have a lot of needs, and you’re just bouncing back like a ping pong between those two rooms all day long,” Solomon says. 

Another challenge is having enough ICU nurses. It takes months for a nurse to be trained enough to work in the ICUs. 

Because the hospital has had to pull nurses from other departments, the non-COVID-19 ICUs can sometimes be short-staffed. 

Ultimately, Solomon would like people to take precautions to protect those around them. 

“People are constantly saying, ‘The death’s rate’s so low, and it primarily just affects the elderly and preexisting conditions.’ If you sit and realize that these are people’s parents and these are people with families. Just because they have a preexisting condition…those people don’t deserve to be sick any more than we do,” Solomon says.    

 


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronaviruses transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States

 

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