DALLAS — Parkland Hospital’s COVID unit is short-staffed, and employees are tired as hospitalizations in North Texas continue to surge.
Nurse Fara Ajani has treated COVID patients at Parkland since the beginning and has been the assistant manager in the hospital’s COVID unit since December.
“We do what we need to do, and right now, that's what's getting us through this stuff,” Ajani said. “You know you're going to be emotionally, mentally, physically worn out by the time you leave.”
The daily parades and salutes to the service of healthcare workers have faded, but COVID continues to fill hospital beds and claim lives.
“We're just, I guess, waiting for the adrenaline to wear off, but we've been doing this for what, a year and a half now,” Ajani said.
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Many nurses have left, and all are tired of treating COVID, despite three widely available vaccines to prevent it. Ajani and other nurses recorded video diaries to share their experiences.
“Just help us out, we're begging for help, do it,” nurse Kelly Stevens said in his video. “Just help us help you. Your inaction affects all of us. It’s just frustrating and staff are burning out.”
“Just finished my fourth 12-hour shift this week. I am exhausted,” nurse Marci Williams said in her video diary. “Today was very emotional day. Had a lot of sick patients on the unit today. Some that we don't know if they're going to make it.”
Staffing is critically low. So far, Texas officials have approved paying for 2,500 additional employees, but hospitals in North Texas alone have requests thousands of staff from the state according to the DFW Hospital Council.
Ajani said one recent day the unit was staffed with four nurses compared to the 16 they had around December.
“I know there's patients with COVID. They need a COVID bed in the ER, but I just don't have anywhere to put them right now,” Ajani said. “What're you going to do with the bed that doesn't have anyone to take care of the patient that's going to go in there?”
Texas COVID hospitalizations have increased 337% in a month.
“It's people my age, people your age that that are getting sick. They've got their whole lives ahead of them,” Ajani said. “We're seeing people our own age die, and that is difficult.”
In mid-June Parkland’s COVID unit was down to just one patient with plans to close.
“That one patient was one patient for three days, and then it became two, then three, then six,” Ajani said.
At the beginning of July, Parkland had seven COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, they had 125.
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“A lot of folks didn't get vaccinated. ‘It won't happen to me’. And now it has. Now what,” Ajani said. “You hear a lot of regrets.”
Healthcare workers are worn out, and they don’t need the honking horns or siren from early 2020. They need people to care and get vaccinated.
“We're tired. We're tired and we're ready to be done,” Ajani said. “The only way we can be done, and we can go home and actually rest is everyone - is everyone doing their part.”