Healthcare systems not immune to COVID related staffing shortages

The prolonged pandemic is forcing local healthcare systems to rely on outside help to care for sick patients.

SAN ANTONIO – The number of people dealing with COVID is still high unfortunately, the people caring for the ill are outnumbered.

“We’re doing it one more time,” Connie Thigpen, the administrative director of the ICU and emergency department at Baptist Medical Center said. “Staff is tired.”

Exhaustion, emotional and physical, is setting in for healthcare workers—an effect of the pandemic that is often times hidden from the patients they serve.

“They’ll never realize the amount of emotion that a caregiver and nurse an RT puts into their patient,” Thigpen said.

The virus is also forcing staff to stay home if they’re infected.

In a statement, a Methodist Healthcare spokesperson said: “Like the rest of the nation, we have seen an increased number of employees testing positive for COVID; however, due to the CDC’s updated guidance which decreased isolation protocols, employees have been able to return to work more quickly and patient care has not been affected.”

Thigpen says Baptist Medical Center is not necessarily short-staffed because they are relying on outside support to “help battle what we’re doing.”

“We have supplemental staff in the way of travelers. We also have some state nurses that are helping us out as well,” Thigpen explained.

Currently, Baptist Health System has more than 60 state staff nurses and more than 100 travel nurses.

The story is the same at University Health System. There are 41 nurses and respiratory therapists helping from the state.

At Methodist Healthcare System, they have 125 nurses and 15 respiratory therapists from the state assisting this month.

“It’s just essential that we continue to try to bring new people on board because honestly, no one really knows when all this is truly going to end,” Thigpen said.

It’s why University Hospital budgeted increases for base salaries this year and is allowing for more flexible time-off policies.

Baptist Health is offering a $15,000 sign-on bonus for qualified respiratory therapists and $20,000 for registered nurses.

“Both have skills and have knowledge that are keenly necessary during the continued battle with this pandemic,” Thigpen said.

On Tuesday, Baptist Health is holding a virtual hiring event for a variety of positions but particularly for RNs and RTs. The event is happening from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.

In order to participate, job seekers will need to RSVP to sherwin.guevarra@tenethealth.com.

For more details about the hiring event, click here.


About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.