Editor's note: The percentage drop in hospitalizations has been updated with the most recent information.
Cleaning of rooms and equipment. Providing unarmed security in emergency rooms. Delivering food trays to patients.
These are just some of the hundreds of positions Delaware hospitals need to fill, as most health systems continue to be in crisis.
The staffing issues have gotten so bad in Delaware that the state government and hospitals are – in an extraordinary and historic move – actively seeking people to voluntarily fill essential clinical and nonclinical positions.
Most Delaware hospitals have been operating under Crisis Standards of Care, a set of regulations imposed when health systems are experiencing unprecedented strain on resources. This means that patient care, including end-of-life treatment, will be re-prioritized.
Though volunteers have helped at hospitals for decades, this is the first time Delaware hospitals have put out such a dire call for assistance.
For months, hospitals have experienced staffing issues due to the number of workers, particularly nurses, who are leaving the hospital bedside. Many are finding better financial opportunities at other hospitals, while others are quitting due to burnout and mental health issues.
The surge of the omicron variant has resulted in hospital workers becoming exposed to the virus and testing positive, resulting in many being unable to work.
“We've reached the point where we are overwhelmed with the demand for our services,” Dr. Ken Silverstein, chief physician executive for ChristianaCare, said.
Hospitalizations have decreased slightly in the past week, dropping by about 24%. Yet the number of people being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals continues to be very high.
Gov. John Carney has deployed more than 100 National Guard members to assist in hospitals and long-term care facilities as certified nursing assistants. The soldiers have received about two weeks of training.
The governor acknowledged during last week's press briefing that staffing issues persisted and asked Delawareans to volunteer in hospitals.
“We do need additional help,” he said.
This fall, the state provided hospitals with $25 million to help with retention and recruitment of hospital workers. This money was part of the federal American Rescue Plan. Initially, hospitals collectively requested $75 million.
The Delaware Healthcare Association is organizing a call for volunteers to “commit to two or more shifts of work per week at a local Delaware hospital,” according to the website. For non-clinical work, hospitals are hoping to fill these positions:
Environmental Services: Assist in the cleaning of rooms and equipment
Dietary and Nutritional Support: Obtain dietary orders from patients and deliver food trays at mealtimes
Security: provide unarmed security services in the ER and public areas
Clerical/Registration: Answer phone calls and provide clerical services for nursing and outpatient clinics
Patient Experience/Lobby Support: Patrol and monitor patients and families in waiting areas to provide services, communicate concerns and information, and ensure safety
Receiving/Supply delivery: Act as runners and delivery personnel for material needed to improve patient flow
Patient Sitters: Monitor patients to ensure physical safety and reduce falls
Lift Team/Transport: Physically lifting and moving patients in and out of bed and transporting them via gurney or wheelchair throughout the hospital
For the clinical roles, volunteers are asked to list their relevant experiences as well as education and certifications.
The Delaware Medical Reserve Corps, which consists of volunteers with both medical and non-medical backgrounds, has also sought members to help hospitals.
According to emails obtained by Delaware Online/The News Journal, a signup website sent out to corps members showed the mass volume of help needed. Hospitals listed openings for hundreds of positions.
For the week of Jan. 24, Beebe Healthcare has openings for more than 320 nonclinical slots, according to the sign-up. These jobs are similar to those being advertised by the Delaware Healthcare Association.
Christopher Otto, executive director of the Delaware Nurses Association, said the state needs to continue to focus on the bigger issue of retaining and attracting health care workers, a problem Delaware has struggled with for years.
“If we don't focus on keeping the workforce we have, and growing the license workforce in Delaware,” he said, “it's gonna come to a point where Delawareans are going to have to ask themselves: ‘Who's taking care of me? Is that a volunteer?’”
To volunteer, go to deha.org/hospitalhelp.
Contact Meredith Newman at (302) 256-2466 or at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MereNewman.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Unable to fill open positions, Delaware hospitals seek hundreds of volunteers