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Mercy coworkers step in to help frontline caregivers amid pandemic

"Hospital administrators are pushing wheelchairs, accountants are emptying trash cans and marketing professionals are serving meals," the healthcare system stated.

ST. LOUIS — For almost two years now, COVID-19 has created an ongoing strain on health care providers, locally and nationally. Now, the new variant of the coronavirus is fueling a surge that's causing workers at a local hospital to step outside their comfort zone.

Omicron, is nearly as transmissible as measles, according to a release from Mercy Hospital. As a result, we've seen record numbers of infections, among both the public and health care workers who keep hospitals running.

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“Omicron has made staffing shortages worse, with a record number of COVID cases keeping some of our caregivers sick at home,” said Betty Jo Rocchio, Mercy’s senior vice president and chief nursing officer. “Given the situation we face, we’re asking co-workers who normally aren’t involved in patient care to help in non-clinical roles giving our clinical teams more time with patients.”

Workers who are usually in non-patient care jobs are now doing tasks such as stocking and refreshing supplies, transporting patients, and assisting patients with daily care activities.

“It's no surprise with Mercy’s culture that hospital administrators are pushing wheelchairs, accountants are emptying trash cans and marketing professionals are serving meals, whatever it takes to make sure that our co-workers who provide hands-on patient care are able to focus on their patients,” said Steve Mackin, Mercy incoming president and chief executive officer.

They are not asked to provide direct patient-care tasks, the hospital said. Instead, they only fill in support services within a hospital.

Many employees echo the gratitude they feel for being able to support their coworkers.

“I’m thankful Mercy has given us the opportunity to step in and help our frontline co-workers,” said Hayley Howard, manager of strategic initiatives at Mercy Hospital Fort Smith. “Our medical team has been in a constant battle since this pandemic started, and they are tired and stressed. It has been a humbling experience to witness our caregivers at work serving our patients.

“This kind of can-do spirit is in Mercy’s DNA," Rocchio said. "When given the opportunity, hundreds of co-workers immediately signed up and are already working side by side with their clinical co-workers to do whatever they can to assist."

The idea came about four weeks ago and it launched over a week ago now.

500 staff members have stepped up to the plate to help. 

"Jumping in for anywhere from two to four hours six-hour shifts," Rocchio said. "Just little bits of time are such a big big help to our workforce who's been doing this for over two years."

She said the nurses are thrilled to be able to be spending more time with their patients. 

"I don't know if we could make it much longer without that kind of help. We're tired, we're burnt out. This is that little bit extra amount of hope and help," Rocchio tells 5 On Your Side.