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Retired nurses return to Roper St. Francis Hospital to help during pandemic

Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 3:11 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 28, 2021 at 6:50 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on healthcare workers in the Lowcountry, but some retired nurses at Roper St. Francis Hospital are stepping up to help their former employers and the community.

Pennie Peralta began her work as a nurse in 1978—the same week she graduated from Clemson University. She retired this past spring after working at Roper St. Francis for 43 years, closing out her career as Chief Nursing Officer.

Peralta said she enjoyed her few months of retirement.

“I’ve had a lot of time with my grandchildren, with my family,” she said. “I’ve done a little bit of traveling.”

But now Peralta is back in action, and she is once again donning her scrubs to work for the hospital—this time in one of the COVID units.

“When the call for help came there wasn’t any hesitation,” she said.

Officials with Roper said Peralta is one of a handful of nurses who left the comfort of retirement to come back to work during the pandemic in order to help with the strain on current staff, the recent surge in COVID patients and more.

“The patients acuity, they’re coming in sicker, which demands more nursing care, which demands more care from our patient care techs and assistants,” said Tavia Buck, the chief nursing officer for Roper St. Francis.

Buck said Peralta and the other formerly-retired nurses really make a difference.

“They’re running labs to the lab, they’re helping with breakfast trays, they’re helping get supplies for the nurses as they go into the patient rooms,” she said. “So, just a tremendous help for the staff.”

Monday, Peralta was fitted for her N-95 mask, which will better protect her from the sick COVID patients she may interact with.

With that mask firmly fastened, Peralta said she’s prepared to serve her hospital and her community, indefinitely.

“I got the call from the vice president of human resources, and I just never thought to say, ‘No,’” she said. “You just can’t. I committed myself to this organization back in 1978. That’s just how it’s been. As long as I’m useful, I’ll be here.”

Both Peralta and Buck said the best way to thank healthcare workers is to go and get vaccinated if you have not done so already.

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