Life as a frontline Cape Coral Hospital worker

Reporter: Emma Heaton Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:
Nurses at Cape Coral Hospital. Credit: WINK News

Just a few weeks into 2022, a frontline worker at Cape Coral Hospital says her staff is seeing a surge in omicron cases, like most hospitals around the nation. But the promising news is that they aren’t seeing the same difficulties they did with delta, and health care workers are laboring extra hard to keep things running smoothly.

Amy Heitman, the nursing director of the ICU and critical outreach team at Cape Coral Hospital, walked WINK News through the details of her time as a frontline worker. She says August through October in 2021 proved especially challenging when the delta variant brought in an influx of critical patients. Fortunately, patient deaths do not look the same with omicron compared to what Heitman and her staff saw firsthand with delta.

“Completely different,” Heitman said. “And on the better side. We have seen some deaths, very vulnerable patients. But with delta, you know, we saw a great deal of death at that time. Although we are still seeing some, we’re not seeing the numbers that we saw the delta, by a far stretch.”

A big current challenge is dealing with staffing shortages as employees end up sick themselves after treating patients; the omicron variant is adept at bypassing vaccine protections, though they still lessen the severity of symptoms. Heitman says it’s always challenging when staff gets sick, but they have staffing benefits that prevent disaster from striking.

Heitman says employees are getting back to work faster during the omicron surge thanks to the change in CDC recommendations. Lee Health also offers benefits to its teams, to help fill in the gaps when people are out sick with incentive bonuses and travel nurses available to them. Heitman says they avoided reaching a point where she might be concerned too many staff members were out for them to operate.

“I can speak from my unit personally, and no, we have not had that,” Heitman said. “I think the other side of that is supplies. You know, we do a great job at Lee Health and work with our distribution center, and we’re able to get backup products if we don’t get the products that we normally have available to us.”

Heitman thinks we’re at the peak of omicron right about now. Cape Coral Hospital’s ICU is seeing a slight decrease in overall admissions each day. Despite the number of cases, things are looking positive in Lee Health hospitals. Heitman says her team has been able to overcome the surge’s difficulties, though it’s taken a lot of work behind the scenes to make that happen seamlessly. She thanks the doctors and nurses for being there through it all.

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