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EXCLUSIVE: Nurses bearing another wave of COVID hospitalizations at YRMC

Part two of Cody Lee's reporting on the hospital's COVID-19 unit

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - As YRMC prepares for a federal response team to arrive and assist medical staff, we’re continuing our inside look at the hospital’s COVID-19 unit and what nurses are going through on a daily basis.

On Wednesday, News 11 introduced you to a charge nurse who took us inside one of the hospital’s special COVID-19 units where over 50 patients are being treated for the virus.

Now we're speaking to the person at the helm of it all, Kym Miller, who sat down with me, to discuss how herself and the fleet of nurses are getting through yet another wave of hospitalizations.

She steps inside this unit every day and experiences the somber moment knowing so many people have fallen ill to COVID-19.

“It's hard to see the pattern when you look so young, old now we're going okay, we thought we had a hold of it so it's evolving and changing,” Miller said.

Miller is the new director of the COVID-19 unit we toured. She’s also a familiar face to News 11 after we interviewed her a year ago when she was just a nurse.


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“I was encouraged to apply and there's not a day that goes by that I regret that I applied and to lead this team is they are definitely a unique group of people that step up to take care of our patients and our community every day,” Miller explained.

She says the hospital has staff to treat the current increase in patients but each nurse attends to at least five patients each shift.

“We are able to provide the care that they need and the constant monitoring we have people watching telly monitors which is a heart monitor. We have them on continuous pulse/oxygen levels. So we are constantly rounding and checking in,”

But this devastating new normal is not something everybody can handle. Charge Nurse Amanda Sharpensteen explains how this job could really take a toll on your mental health.

“The phone calls to family members, those horrible phone calls that you're calling and saying that they've lost their loved one. Or if they're lucky enough to be here, the cry you hear. A child lost their mother or their mother lost their son. I mean, those are devastating losses,” Sharpensteen shared.

Some nurses are leaving the business altogether.

“Unfortunately, in the meantime, we've lost a lot of nurses that mentally have broken and they can't mentally do this anymore. They lost the love of taking care of people, but that's just the sheer amount of loss and suffering that you see,” Sharpensteen added.

The hospital is on the verge of receiving much-needed assistance, which Miller says will ease some of the workload for her team.

“We can always use more help and even if it's somebody they know on the federal team sometimes will bring CNAs or it doesn't always have to be a bedside nurse because you do a team nursing model. We work together as a team when we use those ancillary staff to the best of their ability and within their scope,” said the COVID unit director.

Along with the 10 paramedics that are expected to arrive anytime now, YRMC will also receive up to 14 nurses within the next two weeks.


PART ONE OF EXCLUSIVE REPORT: Inside YRMC COVID-19 unit as nurses experience winter surge

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Cody Lee

Cody Lee joined 13 On Your Side and KYMA News 11 in March 2020, but he’s no stranger to Arizona. He grew up in the Phoenix area and enjoys everything Arizona has to offer.

You can contact Cody at cody.lee@kecytv.com.

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