East Texas hospitals shift to ‘disaster documentation’ to allow nurses to spend more time caring for patients

Shortage in nurses and surge in patients leads to decision
UT Health East Texas hospital in Tyler
UT Health East Texas hospital in Tyler(Julian Esparza)
Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 9:56 AM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Two major East Texas hospitals are taking a new step in the fight against the latest wave of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

UT Health East Texas shifted to what it calls “disaster documentation” on Friday. A spokesman for CHRISTUS Health confirmed their hospital has done the same.

Disaster documentation means hospitals have reached a point where they need to lessen the documentation burden on nurses, allowing them to spend more time caring for patients. It’s an indication of the strain on hospitals as they deal with a surge in patients and a shortage in staff.

“I sent the email just a few minutes ago that we are in disaster documentation,” said Christy Escandon, Chief Nursing Officer for UT Health East Texas on Friday at noon. “And what that entails is really focusing specifically on a patient’s primary illness, primary chief complaint, and making sure that as always our documentation reflects the patient’s condition and the care that we’re providing, but in a very streamlined manner.”

Escandon said the abbreviated documentation method was also used in previous pandemic surges. The move comes as hospitals, like UT Health East Texas, wait for an answer from the state when it comes to requests for more resources.

“This request for staffing was for RNs, so bedside caregivers to take care of our COVID influx,” Escandon said.

Escandon said the effects of the pandemic have left most hospitals struggling to find nurses.

“Some are leaving for their personal well-being, some are leaving to take positions outside of nursing and some are leaving for more lucrative travel or contract assignments,” she said.

As for the nurses they do have, Escandon said they’re fighting frustration.

“I was rounding with a group of nurses Thursday evening,” she said. “And they’re frustrated. They’re very strongly committed to the health of our community and they know how important vaccinations are, how important wearing a mask is, and they’re frustrated when they don’t see those things happening in the community. Because they see the after effects, they see the patients who are coming in with COVID. Now, younger and more acutely ill than ever before.”

And because of that, Escandon is asking East Texans to get vaccinated, wear a mask, wash their hands and social distance.

As of Saturday, Aug. 14, 514 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Trauma Service Area G. 15 ICU beds remained open in the area, according to Texas DSHS.

Trauma Service Area G
Trauma Service Area G(Piney Woods RAC)

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