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Hospitals recruit retired nurses in spite of challenges

Ryan Delaney
WRVO News File Photo

Upstate University Hospital's Chief Nursing Officer Nancy Page said the fatigue among her staff is palpable.

"Any medical healthcare assistant is used to dealing with peaks and valleys in volume, but this is certainly a peak that none of our healthcare assistants have ever seen," Page said. "And, not knowing when it's going to end. It would be like if you think - I can get through anything for the next two months, but we don't really know that. That's what makes the word overwhelming come to mind for me."

Credit Carol Edwards Dawson

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is asking hospital administrators like Page to recruit retired nurses who could relieve some of that stress and handle any holiday-related increase in cases of the coronavirus and in distributing vaccines. Page said the extra help is most welcome, but challenges remain, like in onboarding retirees into what is a completely different environment for many not only in terms of technology but also in new COVID protocols. And perhaps most daunting is recruiting from this particular group which is more at risk due to their age.

"We don’t know what health issues they have, so it is very much going to be a very personal decision for people," Page said. 

But for those who do feel at risk, there are multiple options says Carol Edwards Dawson, a retired nurse who worked for Upstate for 27 years. Dawson said at 67 and with her busy family life, she wasn't sure how she could help out initially. Dawson has since found a safe way to return by joining Upstate's COVID hotline to inform and advise people about their test results.

"If I can do anything to help support my fellow health care workers by potentially reducing the number of people that they’re having to take care of it, is so worth it," Dawson said. "So, I would strongly encourage people if they feel like they want to contribute to join the effort."

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.