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Springfield healthcare workers in Mercy, Cox volunteer to work extra shifts to cover hundreds of missing employees

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – It’s a tough time in the healthcare industry right now, but an exhausted workforce is closing ranks to try to help each other.

This latest Omicron push into the Ozarks left Mercy and CoxHealth scrambling to find replacements for sick or quarantined employees and they were saved by the kindness and willingness of their remaining employees to do double duty.

As of Thursday, the Mercy system was short by 354 employees and Cox had more than 500 absent employees.

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

But at both places, employees voluntarily quit their usual jobs to replace their missing colleagues.

And yes, they are paid although it is 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 to be the director of the obstetrics and gynecology clinic,” she said. “But it’s 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 additional duties include working on the patient floors of Mercy Hospital where she is more qualified than most of the other administrators to help.

“I’m a secret nurse,” she laughs. “It’s not really a secret but I’m a nurse.”

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

“She started helping with the blood sugar straight away,” Mercy’s clinical supervisor, Melissa Young, explained. “It may seem like small things, but five or ten minutes is a lot for a nurse who has six patients.”

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

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

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

But one of those little jobs was simply to convince a patient who hadn’t eaten to change his mind.

“So many people in the hospital are alone and don’t have 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 Cox, the same kind of teamwork takes place.

“At this time, we have 468 employees who have agreed to work outside of their normal work and support clinical areas,” Edwards said.

“It can be something like our engineering staff who would normally be painting or doing construction work helping us by working night shifts on patient floors,” added Celeste Cramer, system manager. CoxHealth Recruitment and Retention Strategy. “We have volunteers who have signed up to help with our school childcare program to be with the children of our employees who have been impacted by the school closures.”

And all of this is done to help the ever-increasing number of patients in need of treatment.

“If we didn’t have the support staff, 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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