‘We’re getting tired:’ S.C. nurses share experience inside COVID units

Updated: Jan. 25, 2021 at 7:46 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Some frontline workers said they are “exhausted” as patients fill more than 80-percent of the available hospital beds statewide and as COVID units approach capacity.

The Medical University of South Carolina, Trident Medical Center, and Roper Hospital all run their own COVID units, and some nurses from all three hospitals shared their experiences from inside.

“We’re getting tired,” MUSC nurse Laura Pelkey said. “Statewide, I know that we’re pretty much at the worst point we’ve seen.”

“It is organized chaos,” Trident nurse Sarah Young said. “There’s a lot going on all the time. All of our beds are always full. There are always people in the waiting room. But, we all try to keep a positive energy.”

“It’s been challenging,” Roper nurse Megan Higbie said. “There’s been days you just leave here and it can be upsetting, depressing, but also there’s days where you see someone improve and leave the ICU, and you’ve known you played a role in helping them get out of here.”

As of Monday morning, 1,404 intensive care unit beds were occupied across South Carolina, and that’s about 80-percent of all the available ICU beds statewide. COVID patients fill more than 30-percent of them.

“We continue to have a full house,” Higbie said. “Patients come in and they stay a really long time. That’s probably the most challenging part of the job is that they come in and stay 20 to 30 days.”

Julie Wood is a respiratory coordinator at MUSC, and she said some shifts are “emotional rollercoasters.”

“You do have those days where you feel defeated, especially when you know they can’t be with their loved ones at the end. It’s really, really tough to watch,” Wood said. “We’re there to hold their hand and comfort them in those really hard times.”

“There have been many tears, many hugs. We have worked so hard to get people better because that’s our calling,” Trident nurse Laura Daugherty said. “It really takes a toll on us because we want to help people.”

The nurses all agreed on many of their comments but one they all kept coming back to was about the people with whom they worked.

“I can tell you the only reason we can get through this year, and I’m still here is because of my team,” Young said.

“The days are exhausting. I see the exhaustion in my staff,” Wood said. “I feel their exhaustion, but it’s amazing how they show up day after day.”

Since the pandemic began, more than 5,700 South Carolinians and more than 400,000 Americans have died because of the virus. For more information on COVID-19 numbers, testing, and vaccines visit the state’s Department of Health of Environmental Control website.

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