by Mercy's Jordan Larimore
ST. LOUIS – COVID-19 has created an ongoing strain on health care providers for almost two years. Spiking hospitalizations, limited resources and co-worker quarantines are, sadly, nothing new. What is new is a variant of the coronavirus that is nearly as transmissible as measles. The result across the country has been record numbers of infections, both among the public and the courageous, selfless health care workers who keep hospitals running.
“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.”
Due to the current COVID surge and an increased number of co-worker quarantines both fueled by the omicron variant, along with a national labor shortage, Mercy is asking co-workers in non-patient care jobs to sign up and help with tasks outside their usual job descriptions, 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.
These non-clinical co-workers are not asked to provide direct patient-care tasks, instead, they fill the many support services within a hospital that are crucial to maintaining high standards and exceptional care. Mercy hopes to meet the moment and get the help needed to ensure clinical teams can remove administrative burdens and continue to deliver high-quality care to an even greater number of patients who need it. All non-clinical co-workers who assist will receive the necessary training and compensation for their work.
“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 two years ago, and they are tired and stressed. It has been a humbling experience to witness our caregivers at work serving our patients. I was nervous to step out of my comfort zone and support my co-workers who needed it most. But while the tasks I performed seemed insignificant to me, they allowed them to do more for our patients.”
Others echo the gratitude they feel in being able to support clinical co-workers.
"I’ve stripped beds and helped clean patient rooms, serving alongside our amazing environmental services team,” said Katie Horton, who has worked from her St. Louis home throughout the pandemic as a manager of talent selection with Mercy’s human resources team. “We’re focused on turning over rooms so another patient can get in a room as soon as possible. One of my co-workers asked me if someone was making me do this. I assured her I’m here by choice and just want to help. That seemed to put a smile on her face. We really are here to serve wherever there is the greatest need.” For many, Mercy’s response to lending a hand comes as no surprise.
“This kind of can-do spirit is in Mercy’s DNA,” said Rocchio. “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.”
Mercy, one of the 25 largest U.S. health systems, serves millions annually with nationally recognized quality care and one of the nation’s largest Accountable Care Organizations. Mercy is a highly integrated, multi-state health care system including more than 40 acute care, managed and specialty (heart, children’s, orthopedic and rehab) hospitals, convenient and urgent care locations, imaging centers and pharmacies. Mercy has 900 physician practices and outpatient facilities, 3,400 Mercy Clinic physicians and advanced practitioners, as well as more than 40,000 co-workers serving patients and families across Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has clinics, outpatient services and outreach ministries in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.