Out-of-state healthcare workers offering much-needed help in Mississippi

OLIVE BRANCH, Miss. — It’s been a couple of weeks since hundreds of out-of-state healthcare workers were deployed to help hospitals in Mississippi deal with understaffing and an overflow of COVID-19 patients. The workers were sent to 61 hospitals statewide.

“I wish everyone could see what it’s like for the patients to struggle who cannot breathe,” said Annelise Jensen, the chief nursing officer at Methodist Olive Branch Hospital.

Day after day, Jensen has watched as the virus sickens more people in her community.

“Everyone thinks it’s not going to happen to them. And the challenge with COVID is if you’re the one, it’s really bad,” she said.

When the Delta variant was at its peak, she said the hospital, which has 32 med-surgical beds and 12 ICU beds in total, was seeing 50 plus COVID patients a day.

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“We were having to hold those patients in the emergency room, and certainly that bogs down your emergency room, and everything just kind of spiraled from there,” she said.

That’s why the state stepped in and sent the hospital additional healthcare workers from out of state, including nine critical care nurses and four respiratory therapists.

Since then, Jenson said they’ve been able to care for more patients.

“Our post-anesthesia care unit and our same-day surgery beds have been used to take care of admitted patients that we otherwise would have had to hold in the emergency room,” she said.

60 other Mississippi hospitals also received more workers.

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Brenda Howie, the chief nursing officer at Mississippi Baptist Medical Center in Jackson, said they received 19 nurses and three respiratory therapists.

Even though cases across the state are declining slightly, she said the extra help is still greatly needed.

“We still have so many sick patients that are on ventilators, in the ICU, and in our MedSurg unit,” she said. “We have got to build back up our team and build up our hospital to the staffing prior to the pandemic.”

Both healthcare workers said the decline in cases Mississippi has seen over the past few days is a promising sign.

They remind you to get vaccinated if you haven’t already, as that could help those case numbers continue to decrease.