Tough search is on for nurses amid surge in new COVID-19 cases in Arizona

As the COVID-19 pandemic in Arizona continues to get worse, hospitals in the state are looking high and low for staff, as they are afraid that they won’t be able to handle the oncoming crush of COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, Gov. Doug Ducey has promised to help, pledging $60 million to solve the shortage issue. First, however, the state has to find the staff, outbid other states to attract them, and then get them to Arizona in a hurry.

Arizona in need of hundreds of nurses

In Arizona, the state is looking to import 500 nurses to care for COVID patients in the coming weeks, from brand new nurses, traveling, short-term nurses, to retired nurses who will re-enter the workforce.

"COVID patients take a lot of resources," said Dawna Cato with the Arizona Nurses Association. "There’s a lot of care involved with that, so it’s nurses but also other types of care as well to help support them."

Banner, the largest hospital system in the state, is looking to hire in a hurry, as they expect to exceed patient capacity sometime in the coming week.

“We continue to work on our staffing plans, and bring in external, contracted labor from outside of the state, and continue to do many other activities to make sure that we have staffing available," said Dr. Marjorie Bessel with Banner Health.

Meanwhile, the Navajo nation is back to critical condition, with 300 cases reported on three different days in the past week. Supplies, like oxygen, are also running low, and ICU beds are filling up. Staffing shortages are forcing dental assistants and physical therapist to pick up the slack.

“We are now in a new part of this phase that we are in," said Navajo Area Indian Services Health Director Roslyn Tso. "We are seriously looking at some challenges that will likely go beyond our capacity. It is my responsibility as a federal official to make sure that tribal leaders are informed."

The website is showing 2,600 RN positions available in Arizona. One travel nurse position is paying $2,200, per week, for a 13-week commitment.

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COVID-19 symptoms

Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

RELATED: Is it the flu, a cold or COVID-19? Different viruses present similar symptoms

COVID-19 resources

CDC Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)

AZDHS Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)