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UT-Knoxville students called to help UT Medical Center nurses at hospital, ICU

The University of Tennessee Medical Center was one of several to call in help from the National Guard and the U.S. Department of Defense in August, during the new surge of COVID-19.
Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 8:11 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Active COVID-19 cases have dropped across Tennessee, but the burden of the pandemic is still lurking at hospitals in East Tennessee.

On Monday, top health care professionals at the University of Tennessee Medical Center told WVLT News that some of their nurses have been overwhelmed and overworked during the new surge of COVID-19.

“It’s definitely getting better, but there are still challenging,” said Dr. Sandy Leake, Chief Nursing Officer.

As a new partnership between the UT College of Nursing and the hospital, UTMC started paying undergrad and grad students to work as nursing assistants. The students will tend to the medical needs of patients while nurses could be caring for five to six patients at a time. Their duties could range from taking vitals to performing bed side care.

The hospital was one of several to call in help from the National Guard and the U.S. Department of Defense in August, during the new surge of COVID-19. Now, more than 20 students have joined the fight to a nursing shortage.

“COVID has amplified it to the point to where we’re losing our workforce,” said Dr. Victoria Niederhauser, dean of nursing at UT. “We are now at -- let’s say the level was maybe an orange before -- a red level in terms of our staffing shortages.”

Even with the help, there are still many “work as needed” job openings at UT.

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