Omicron Variant

Health Workers Feel Strain of Surge

Projections show the omicron peak is still days away as healthcare workers manage staffing shortages and sick co-workers

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Omicron is on track to shatter Texas' COVID-19 hospitalization records and the surge is crushing already tired and strained healthcare workers.

Pandemic forecasters at the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium say the state’s current surge of omicron infections and hospitalizations is likely to get worse before it gets better.

Nurses and other healthcare workers are on the frontlines of the fast-moving variant.

"Healthcare workers are getting sick and they're not able to come into work. It's making clinics short-staffed. It's making hospitals short-staffed. People are tired and already working at their max capacity," said University of Texas at Tyler's Dr. Barbara Chapman, Texas Nurse Practitioner.

Chapman has been working the frontlines onboard mobile clinics and community clinics in North and East Texas.

The strain, she says, has pushed colleagues to find more lucrative travel nursing jobs.

"It has to do with with a salary issue. The travel jobs right now are offering higher salaries to nurses than we've ever seen and people are leaving because the facilities can't afford those types of salaries," said Chapman.

Last summer, Chapman helped start an outreach program offering mental health support to healthcare workers after hearing from colleagues near burnout.

"We are still using our mental health care outreach line and that is still free and that is alive, unfortunately, and I say unfortunately, because I wish we didn't have to have it," she said.

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