‘We are tired. We are exhausted’: SC nurse says hospital is facing bed and staff shortages

Updated: Jan. 8, 2021 at 7:28 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - State health officials say South Carolina’s hospitals are overwhelmed.

After a week of record-breaking COVID-19 hospitalizations, some of the nurses and doctors caring for these nearly 2,400 sick patients say they’re experiencing critical bed situations and staff shortages.

Natasha Brayboy, a 26-year veteran nurse, is an assistant nurse manager at Prisma Health Tuomey Hospital. She says this week they’ve seen a rise in COVID patient admissions.

“We’ve had some days recently where patients have had to hold in the ER, which is not the ideal situation,” said Brayboy. “We just didn’t have a place to put them. The bed situation is critical.”

Brayboy and her team of nurses are working 50 hours a week, donned head to toe in PPE. She says COVID patients are spending more time in their care, meaning less room for those coming in sick.

“We are tired, we are exhausted, but we know the work has to be done,” Brayboy explained. “We are doing the best we can.”

On top of a bed shortage, Brayboy says there also aren’t enough nurses. According to her, one nurse can only typically care for four to five patients but only three to four COVID patients.

“It takes more time to take care of those COVID patients. So you need more, but there’s not more,” she explained. “There’s not enough of us to go around.”

The hardest part of Brayboy’s job is watching patients, who she says become like family, not make it.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Brayboy. “You want everybody to leave here and be able to go back home to family, so if that doesn’t happen, we take it personal. We take it personal.”

The daily tragedy takes a toll on these healthcare heroes, but Brayboy says it’s the success stories that keep her and her team going.

“I like to take a patient out and wheel them out and say, ‘Take care! We don’t want to see you back.’ We want to make sure they know we really care about them,” she explained.

While this week brought a lot of loss, it also brought hope, as Brayboy received her first dose of the COVID vaccine Wednesday.

“I want to protect myself; I want to protect my family. I want to protect others in the community,” said Brayboy.

Many people ask what they can do to help these hard-working nurses. Brayboy’s response: wear your mask, wash your hands, and stay home if you are sick.

She says these simple steps are needed now more than ever, so they can continue to save lives.

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