Layoffs and furloughs have been happening at hospitals locally and nationally. Since COVID-19, nurses and other hospital staff - those who may not be on the front lines, but work in clinics or elective surgeries, for example - simply have little to no work these days. But a hospital in Bismarck has prided itself on not having to furlough one single employee during this pandemic.
Here’s how hundreds of workers are staying on the payroll. t’s not exactly what they went to college for, but here at CHI St. Alexius, some hundreds of nurses, OR workers, rehab therapists, even Rad Techs, are finding themselves in new roles. The hospital has set up what’s called a “labor pool.” When the coronavirus arrived, many hospital workers were surprised to find they didn’t have much to do.
“My department was probably one of the very first departments impacted in mammography,” noted Cori Brothers, a Radiology Technologist, Mammography.
“Most of our procedure area became incredibly slow as the pandemic hit,” recalled Raumi Kudrna, Patient Care Services vice president. But instead of cutting hours, nurses and all hospital staff had options: Either take vacation, take unpaid time off or join the labor pool.
“Labor pool is something that is utilized to start or plug or fill folk into roles that they wouldn’t otherwise be doing,” Kudma explained. Jobs changed overnight as new and different kinds of jobs emerged. Temperature screening stations, now manned by CHI employees. Extra sanitation duties, done by the professionals.
“We wanted our waiting rooms cleaned hourly, handrails, doorknobs. Every patient that enters our facility has their temp taken,” said Brothers. And, when patients have to enter the hospital alone due to visitor restrictions, nurses and staff take the place of family.
“We did not want our patients feeling alone, and we wanted them to be accompanied by some who could help them through the process,” said CT Technologist Crystal Ell. So many obscure jobs, some you’ve probably never even thought of, all important, all necessary.
“The labor pool has really been able to step in and fill the need,” said Brothers, all while earning a paycheck, keeping their benefits. And, though not all the jobs are as high tech as usual, the staff here wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The fact that we still get to be a part of helping our community, still get the care they need and be safe while doing it…absolutely, sign me up,” said Ell. It’s worth noting that CHI offered the labor pool to all its clinics and hospitals, meaning Turtle Lake, Garrison and Minot all had the same options to keep working.
Lauren Kalberer Reporting