Some Tennessee hospitals are already treating more COVID patients than ever. And the statewide total is likely to hit a record this week — surpassing the peak of the winter surge.
ICUs have never been so strained. Nearly a third of the more than 3,000 COVID patients in Tennessee are so sick that they’re being treated in the ICU.
“We have beds. We don’t have the staff to take them. That’s the scary part,” says Taylor Wylie, a charge nurse in the ICU at Centennial Medical Center in Nashville.
Since the surge stretches across the under-vaccinated South, Wylie says they’re getting transfer requests from as far away as Texas and usually having to say no. Alabama, for instance, has a running deficit of ICU beds. Tennessee, at the moment, is at 94% capacity statewide.
Nashville ICUs are starting to ask nurses to care for more critical patients at once — even those that usually would require one-on-one attention. And charge nurses, like Wylie, are being asked to care for patients while managing beds and nurses.
“It means that patients who are in the ICU, sick enough to be there, are not going to get the amount of attention that they really should be getting,” she says. “Your nurses are spread more thin.”
The Tennessee National Guard is expecting more requests for staffing help this week. But troops are primarily relieving nurses of administrative tasks so they can do the more complicated and demanding work of caring for COVID patients.