Staff reports | Nurses across the country are feeling worn out and undervalued after experiencing pandemic-related stressors according to a recent study from the American Nurses Foundation, The New York Times reported.  Lowcountry nurses concur.

Meanwhile, state reports show the community level of the Covid-19 virus is low in the Charleston area, but 44 people died statewide from it in the week ending Feb. 18.

Across the nation, health care workers have dealt with aggression from patients and families struggling with increased deaths, mask mandates and staffing shortages due to the Covid-19 pandemic, The Times reported.  The conflict has worsened issues in the nursing field that arise from grueling hours and stressful work environments, many say..

“Nurses need to be appreciated and valued — and valued means a lot of different things to a lot of different people,” Dr. Elizabeth Kline of Roper St. Francis Health Care told the Charleston City Paper. “What do nurses need? One of the things that we’re all in a race for is staffing — permanent staffing.”

Roper offers flexible hours, increased pay and advanced degree opportunities for its nurses, Kline said. “Roper has done a great job with recruiting and retention efforts,” she said. “We’re far better than the national average as far as first-year retention.” 

Roper also is focused on currently assigning nurses a manageable number of patients who need higher levels of care and attention, known as high acuity patients. 

“Roper has a very high-tech tool coming into use in the next few months that will help separate out the higher acuity patients and the lower acuity patients, so nurses have equal staffing ratios,” Kline said. “Things that are equally important [include] having quiet rooms for [nurses] to eat their lunch or to take a quick break, and other offerings [such as] nutrition classes [and] yoga classes.”

The American Nurses Foundation last month surveyed 12,581 nurses, and 57% said they felt “exhausted over the past two weeks, 43% said they felt “burned out” and only 20% said they felt valued, The Times reported. While the nursing field has always been pressure packed, the intensity of the pandemic has emphasized the need to restructure the job to allow for improved stress management. 

Dr. Mensik Kennedy of the American Nurses Association told The Times that nurses need regularly scheduled health check-ins and the option to take action to lower heightened stress levels, which starts with changing the connotation that working without breaks is something to be glorified. 

Latest COVID-19 data

State health officials encourage residents to refer to the CDC’s community levels map to track the severity of Covid-19. As of Feb. 22, Charleston County’s community level is low, which is in line with the previous reporting period. 

For the week ending Feb. 18, Covid-related hospitalizations in Charleston were down 10.6% in comparison to the week ending Feb. 11. For the week ending Feb. 18, state officials reported 44 people died from Covid-19 — 3 more deaths than the previous week. In this period, 4,106 new cases were reported — 693 fewer than the previous reporting period.

The Biden administration announced Jan. 30 that national Covid-19 public health emergency protocols will expire May 11, according to The New York Times. One of the more impactful changes to public health policy will affect availability of free Covid tests, treatments and vaccines. Out-of-pocket costs will apply to services, which were previously free under the public health emergency

SCDHEC transitioned to weekly reporting of new Covid data in December 2022. The most recent numbers were reported Wednesday and covered Feb. 12-18. In other data:

  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 12+ with at least one vaccine: 69.6%
  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 12+ who have completed vaccination: 60.7%
  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 5-11 with at least one vaccine: 23.5%
  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 5-11 who have completed vaccination: 19.5%

For more information, visit the S.C. SCDHEC COVID-19 dashboard.

Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.