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New York nurses arrive in Utah to help treat COVID-19 patients
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New York nurses arrive in Utah to help treat COVID-19 patients

(Intermountain Healthcare Critical Care Doctor Dixie Harris, at podium, welcoming a group of nurses from New York. Credit: Paul Nelson)

MURRAY – Returning the favor.  A group of ICU nurses from New York are in Utah, helping Intermountain hospitals treat COVID-19 patients.  They say it’s a way to say thank you for Utah’s health care workers going to New York in their time of need. 

Last April, Intermountain Healthcare sent 100 health care workers to New York City to help deal with the massive outbreak of COVID-19.  Officials say the Northwell Health System treated more than 70 thousand patients during the height of the surge.   Nurse Annice Sterling says she’s no stranger to seeing patients die, but this disease is unlike anything she’d seen before.  Patients would be intubated for much longer than normal, and they would show signs of improvement before getting sicker.

Sterling says, “We were putting so much work and so much care and so much dedication into these patients, and sometimes they would [die], and were just as emotional because we would have to call the family that weren’t able to be at bedside.”

She remembers the immense stress she and her coworkers felt during this time.  Sterling says she broke down and sobbed behind her mask while one woman said her goodbyes to her dying husband.

She remembers, “I don’t have the time to stop and cry in the break room because I have other patients.”

Her hospital normally houses four intensive care units, but they needed to expand that to eight, sometimes nine.  The nursing staff was stretched incredibly thin.  That’s when workers from Intermountain came to help ease their workload.

“It was the relief that we so desperately needed, and I’m happy we can return that favor to them, now,” Sterling says.

(Workers from Northwell Health System being trained for their first day. Credit: Intermountain Healthcare)

Officials from Northwell say now that their infection rates have dropped to a more controllable level, they can send nurses and other health care workers to Utah to ease our workers’ caseload.  Ten nurses were introduced at the IMC campus in Murray, as officials announced a partnership between Intermountain and Northwell.  More nurses are expected to arrive in the following weeks.  The two companies will share the best practices they’ve learned from treating so many patients at the height of the pandemic.

Fortunately, Specialty-Based Care Chief Medical Officer Paul Krakovitz says Utah’s hospital system isn’t nearly as busy as it was in New York.

Krakovitz says, “We are not at that.  We are still taking care of patients the way we would always take care of patients.  Our hospitals are not overwhelmed, they’re busy.”

Currently, Utah is seeing a drop in overall infections.  On Tuesday, UDOH announced 378 new cases, with seven additional deaths.  However, Krakovitz says it’s still too early to believe the state can return to normal activity.

“Just because the numbers have come down for a week, or two, they’ll go right back up if we’re not diligent,” he says.

 

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