As COVID-19 cases rise across Georgia, so does demand for more nurses in metro hospitals

As COVID-19 cases rise across Georgia, so does demand for more nurses in metro hospitals

ATLANTA — More health care workers in the state are expected to get the coronavirus vaccine this week, bringing hope to many on the front lines that the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is near.

But there is one problem that the vaccine won’t be able to fix immediately — the demand for more nurses.

As a hardworking single mother of two, Cineta Jones, a traveling registered nurse from Huntsville, Alabama, is forced to drive from city to city so that she can make enough money to support her family.

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“I always FaceTime my children and call them,” Jones said. “That comforts me that they are with grandma when I’m working.”

Like thousands of other traveling nurses serving on the front lines of the pandemic, Jones has spent the last 11 months on the road.

She told Channel 2′s Michael Seiden that she has traveled to COVID-19 hot spots in Missouri, Tennessee and Georgia, where she’s working around the clock in hospitals caring for COVID-19 patients of all ages.

“I have watched so many people come in from old to young. I mean, we’ve had mid-20-year-old patients come in and can’t breathe and on 6 liters of oxygen, and they have that panic in their eyes,” Jones said.

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She told Seiden that the job can be mentally and physically draining.

“I’ve left worked and cried, and there’s times I went in the break room,” Jones said. “You know you’re doing all you can and, of course, sometimes you can’t save your patient.”

Since arriving in Atlanta in January, Jones has served in COVID-19 units at Emory University Hospital Midtown and Northside Hospital Atlanta. She’s also spent time in Nashville.

Jones said traveling nurses are faced with many challenges. But one of the toughest aspects of their job is serving as the only line of communication between a patient and their family.

“With all the love and compassion I have as a nurse, it hurts when I’m watching a patient that I know, seeing the signs you know it’s coming,” Jones said. “Of course, you have to hold it together for the family.”

As hospitals and health care workers continue to deal with the post-Thanksgiving surge, traveling nurses, like Jones, are in high demand.

In fact, according to national health experts, the average traveling nurse, who works on a temporary contract, is getting paid two to four times more than what they would make if they continued to work at their home state hospitals.

“I started out as a travel nurse in St. Louis making $1,700 per week, and I currently make $3,100 per week,” Jones said.

But that’s not why Jones devotes so much of her time and energy. She told Seiden that she has a true passion for helping others and is determined to prevent the virus from claiming another life.

According to several health care agencies in charge of placing travel nurses with hospitals, the demand around the country has increased by more than 40% in the last month.

Seiden is still working to get exact numbers for Georgia, but there is no question that many area hospitals are looking to fill positions.

A spokesperson for Emory Healthcare told Seiden that most of its hospitals are looking to fill vacancies, but the need is definitely greatest in the emergency room.

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