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Springfield healthcare workers at Mercy, CoxHealth volunteering to work extra shifts to cover for hundreds of missing employees

Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 6:50 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2022 at 8:38 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - It’s a tough time in the healthcare industry right now but a depleted workforce is closing ranks to try and help one another.

This latest Omicron surge in the Ozarks has left both Mercy and CoxHealth scrambling to find fill-ins for ill or quarantined employees and they’ve been rescued by the kindness and willingness of their remaining staffers to do double-duty.

On Thursday the Mercy system was missing 354 employees and CoxHealth had over 500 staff out.

“We’re tired and we’re stretched,” said CoxHealth President-CEO Steve Edwards.

But at both places, employees are voluntarily crossing over from their regular jobs to fill in for their missing coworkers.

And yes, they are being paid although it’s their choice to volunteer for the extra work.

Maeghan Kidd is one of those who volunteered at Mercy.

“My normal 8-to-5 job is being the Clinic Manager for Obstetrics and Gynecology,” she said. “But this is kind of a call to arms. I have a lot of friends who work here and I hear about their struggles every day. So I volunteered my time.”

Kidd’s extra duties involve working on Mercy hospital’s patient floors where she’s more qualified than most other administrators to help out.

“I am a secret nurse,” she said with a laugh. “Not so much of a secret but I am a nurse.”

Kidd is actually an LPN so she’s able to help out in a number of areas.

“She started helping right away with blood sugars,” explained Mercy Clinical Supervisor Melissa Young. “Those may seem like little things but five or ten minutes is a lot for a nurse that has six patients.”

“I feel like I’m giving what people need,” Kidd said. “It could be taking out the trash or helping in emergency situations. My family always said that more hands make less work. So here I am.”

Crystal Milde is an executive assistant for Mercy and she too has doubled up to work on patient floors although she is not a nurse.

“Our nursing staff is doing the heavy work,” she said. “It’s day-to-day and there’s no end in sight. So I try to keep the small tasks to a minimum for our nurses so they can do the critical stuff.”

But one of those small jobs was simply convincing a patient who hadn’t been eating to change his mind.

“So many people in the hospital are lonely and have no family with them because of COVID,” Milde pointed out. “So we just spent some time talking and hanging out and eventually he started eating!”

At CoxHealth the same kind of teamwork is taking place.

“Right now we have 468 employees who’ve agreed to work outside of their normal job and support clinical areas,” Edwards said.

“It can be anything like our engineering staff who would normally be painting or doing some construction work helping us by working overnight shifts on the patient floors,” added Celeste Cramer, CoxHealth’s System Director of Recruitment and Retention. “We have volunteer services people who have signed up to help with our school care program to be with children of our employees who have been impacted by school closures.”

And all this is being done for the sake of helping the ever-growing number of patients in need of treatment.

“If we didn’t have the support personnel our clinical staff wouldn’t be able to take as many patients as they are able to take by having that support,” Cramer said.

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