Charge Nurse Calls 911, Desperate For Help in Understaffed ER

3 Min Read Published October 14, 2022
Charge Nurse Calls 911, Desperate For Help in Understaffed ER

On Saturday, the charge nurse from the Emergency Room at St. Michael Medical Center in Washington called dispatchers at Kitsap 911 through an official backline. St. Michael’s is experiencing a staffing shortage, like most healthcare facilities in the country, and this time there just wasn’t enough staff to care for the patients including the 45 in the waiting room.

“The charged nurse from inside the emergency room called 911,” said Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue Chief Jay Christian. “The charging nurse said twice, 'we’re drowning,' conveying that they only had five nurses on duty and 45 patients in their waiting room, and she was asking for help from local firefighters to come work inside of the ER to help relieve some of that pressure.”

This content used under license from "Ask Nurse Alice."

St. Michael’s is the only hospital on the peninsula and since July there has been a dramatic increase in wait times, especially for the patients that are transferred via ambulance. Some ambulance crews are out on calls for more than six hours waiting to take a patient to the hospital.  According to Poulsbo Fire Chief James Gillard, staffing issues are a major ongoing issue at the hospital and well known throughout the area. As a result, it has caused stress on first responders.

“We started noticing in July our wait times, from the time we took a patient to the emergency department to the time we were able to transfer care was starting to get extended,” Gillard said. “The concern for that was our patients not being able to get the care they needed and also the EMS and emergency response units not being able to return to service.”

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Kitsap Fire and Rescue sent a crew to the hospital and two firefighters assisted for approximately an hour and a half and helped clean rooms and beds, moved patients throughout the hospital, and took vital signs.

“I think about the courage of that nurse to reach out and call for help,” Christian said. “I think about the firefighters who had to respond in that uncertain situation. I’m really proud of those individuals, and what they were able to do to resolve that crisis that night.”

Gillard, chair of the Kitsap County Fire Chiefs Association, has met with hospital leadership on two separate occasions regarding the delays for ambulances dropping off patients. Gillard said that recently talks have deteriorated and changes have not been implemented. “Short-term, the fire departments are going to do whatever we can to help support, if there’s a public health issue going on, a public safety issue, we’re going to do whatever it takes,” he said. “That just isn’t the long-term solution. We can’t take our emergency response crews out of service to go supplement and support long-term. But just like CK did, we’re always going to go short-term, what needs to be done.”

 St. Michael Medical Center released the following statement:

“At St. Michael Medical Center, similar to other hospitals in the state, we’ve been experiencing high patient volumes and staffing shortages. We continue to prioritize patients with the most urgent medical conditions, even when we are experiencing capacity challenges. We work to manage appropriate staffing levels and to balance capacity system-wide as effectively as we can. We recognize this is a frustrating time for our patients and staff and we appreciate the support of our partners as we work to meet the healthcare needs of the community."

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Kathleen Gaines
Kathleen Gaines
News and Education Editor

Kathleen Gaines (nee Colduvell) is a nationally published writer turned Pediatric ICU nurse from Philadelphia with over 13 years of ICU experience. She has an extensive ICU background having formerly worked in the CICU and NICU at several major hospitals in the Philadelphia region. After earning her MSN in Education from Loyola University of New Orleans, she currently also teaches for several prominent Universities making sure the next generation is ready for the bedside. As a certified breastfeeding counselor and trauma certified nurse, she is always ready for the next nursing challenge.

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