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Nurses Change Roles to Fulfill Staffing Needs at SLV Health





Misty Palacios, RN, Clinical Nurse Manager, adds, “My position is a clinical nurse manager, but I am a nurse first, and I am committed to our community and our SLVH team. Especially during these trying times.”

Nicole Sandoval, RN, is a nurse in the SLVH Infusion Center and agreed to help out with hospitalized inpatients. “I was glad that I was able to help out my colleagues up here on the Med/Surge floor in this time of need.”

Some healthcare organizations have the luxury of allowing nurses to move from other cities during staff shortages, such as at Banner Health between Greeley and Phoenix. But in Alamosa at San Luis Valley Health, there isn’t that type of luxury in this rural hospital setting that serves a large geographic area in southern Colorado. During the summer months, it has been estimated that the regional population can increase to around 50,000 citizens and visitors. “We are the only hospital within 90 miles that delivers babies,” commented Roberta Bean, SLVH Chief Nursing Officer. “The Regional Medical Center in Alamosa is a Trauma Level III Emergency Department. In anticipation of the need to isolate and treat patients during this pandemic, we converted some of our inpatient hospital rooms to be negative pressure rooms.” SLVH also includes Conejos County Hospital, 20 miles to the south, which is a critical access hospital where having more than six inpatients at once might cause a strain on staffing. During planning for a possible surge, it was determined to use the CCH facility for hospitalized non-COVID-positive patients as much as possible.

While the remodeling at the RMC created more physical beds and an ability to handle up to twelve COVID-19 positive hospitalized patients, a nurse shortage developed, especially in June when the number increased to an average of six positive hospitalized patients per day and several employees needed to quarantine due to community spread of the disease. Bean explained, “Our patient volume in our primary care and specialty clinics were not yet back to 100%, so we looked at the situation as an opportunity. With the help of our nurse educators, we decided to cross-train our clinical nurses and refresh their skills to help fill shifts on the floor and in the ED.”

Several of the nurses have been in the clinical setting for a long time. Angel Gylling, RN, Specialty Clinic Nurse Manager, explains, “I have only been in the clinic setting for about six months, so going back and helping was second nature to me. Who really deserves the credit was the nursing staff who have been in the clinic for most to all of their careers who sprang into action and lent a helping hand. Also, the Medical Assistants and staff in the clinic had to step up as they continued to provide outstanding clinical care throughout our valley during this challenging time.”

Another nurse who has been in an educational leadership role commented, “Just those few shifts really helped me refocus my energy and remember why my current role is important. It made me feel like a nurse again.”

Nurse Educators

Nurse Educators Dawn Weed and Brittany Sours conduct skills classes for nurses at SLVH.

Dawn Weed, BSN, RN-BC, Professional Development Specialist at SLVH, and her team were instrumental in instilling confidence and providing support for the nurses who were willing to change roles. “As part of our facility COVID-19 surge planning, the Education Team developed a plan to assist in refreshing clinic LPN and RN skills. Clinic nurses oriented with hospital nurses during which they reviewed assessment techniques, frequently used medications, procedures, and treatments. A team model approach was used and the response from both the hospital and clinic nurses was phenomenal and we heard positive comments from each on a daily basis. Many areas of nursing are very specialized and it can be uncomfortable for a nurse to go to an area where they are unfamiliar, but with our COVID-19 situation, we saw all staff going the extra mile to help each other and make it a positive experience. I am proud of both teams and how they have handled the needs of our community.”