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'We need your help. We cannot do it alone.' | Baptist nurses lay out the strain & challenges during COVID-19 surge

Understaffed and overwhelmed nurses admit the sharp rise in COVID-19 patients is impacting services, lengthening wait times, and putting staff at risk of burnout.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — "There is not a day that goes by where you don't see somebody in an ICU bed struggling to breathe, who is about to be intubated, saying, 'why didn't I get the vaccine?'" Baptist Memorial Hospital Nurse Anne Darst said. 

Darst brings 36 years of experience as a nurse - but is being tested like no time before.

"Right now we are shell shocked. We are in crisis mode," Darst said.

She and others are on the medical frontlines, fighting the ongoing COVID-19 Delta surge that's putting Baptist and other area hospital systems at a breaking point - and impacting overall care.

"We've had to put off elective inductions. There's long waits in our waiting rooms. The system is stressed right now," Darst added.

With record or near record highs of COVID patients forcing challenging choices, Darst pleaded that the public mask up and roll up their sleeves.

"We can't fix it all in the hospitals. It's got to be the community and everyone working together," Darst added.

She's also carrying a heavy heart; the daughter of a COVID victim herself.

"There are times I look at my patient, and it's a man who looks like my Dad," Darst said.

Her father - Joseph Kerick - died April 2, 2020 - three months shy of his 60th wedding anniversary to his wife Maureen and without any of his children or grandchildren by his side.

"They put the iPad up to my Dad's ears and we all said our final goodbyes," Darst said.

That hospital's sensitivity and kindness stays with Darst to this day, as she sees firsthand men and women struggling with their final breaths.

"Using that strength to drive my empathy, to drive my compassion, to know that what I say to that family could work to bring them healing," Darst said.

For now, the Baptist family is lifting each other up and hoping the tide will turn soon.

"We are honest, hardworking nurses, cafeteria staff, EVS, physicians that are here to serve the public and we've got to do this as a team - we need your help. We cannot do it alone," Darst said.

Another frontline health worker in Baptist - nurse manager LaKesha Flynn - shared those same sentiments.

"The most challenging part is just making sure we are available and staffed for these patients because they are coming in sicker," Flynn said. "It's stressful caring for people who are younger than you that normally wouldn't be in the hospital."

Flynn said she and others at Baptist are relying on each other - and their faith.

"Our common goal is making sure our patients are cared for and they make it out of here, leaning on God," Flynn added.