With the omicron variant spreading fast, South Florida nurses are once again on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle.
"It’s very difficult just because of the heavy toll," said Alix Zacharski, a nurse manager at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Zacharski said it doesn’t feel very holiday-like inside her intensive care unit.
"You don’t feel like it’s Christmas this year, and so it is kind of hard because you want to have a sense of a little more happiness, more joy," she said. "We are happy that nothing is going crazy, yeah, but it is almost like the calm before the storm, it’s kind of bittersweet in that sense."
The omicron variant is spreading fast, but so far it is presenting less severe symptoms, resulting in fewer hospitalizations.
Regardless, nurses and their units must be prepared for an influx.
"We do also perk ourselves up, 'ok we know this, we can do this,' despite that we do not want to go back to what we had before," Zacharski said.
The onset of Covid, the flood of sick people and the stress of it all led many to quit their nursing careers, and at a critical time.
And the nursing shortage in South Florida and nationwide continues.
The federal government projects about 195,000 registered nurse job openings every year during this decade.
Traveling nurses, very popular and high paying, are filling gaps at hospitals all over South Florida.
One travel nurse staffing company lists jobs in Fort Lauderdale, Aventura and Fort Myers, and their start date is ASAP.
Nurses are the ones seeing the most patients, pulling 12-hour shifts and are exposed to Covid, and other ailments, on a regular basis.
Nurse Natalie Broz, also from Jackson, calls the Covid era a learning experience.
"Because we’ve been through this over and over again, we’ve been through several Covid waves, we are better prepared so that brings us so much confidence," Broz said.
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