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As COVID Cases Soar, Nurses At New Jersey's Holy Name Medical Center Say Burnout Is, Again, A Big Concern

TEANECK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- New Centers for Disease Control data paints a dire picture of what's likely to come, as Omicron variant cases continue to increase.

The agency expects up to around 54,000 people to be hospitalized every day by the end of January.

CBS2's Nikki Battiste went inside the Intensive Care Unit at Teaneck's Holy Name Medical Center, where it's all hands on deck.

When asked how the number of COVID-19 patients has changed from just before the holidays to now, Dr. Michele Acito said, "Just before the holidays, we were under 30. Yesterday, we were over 90. So, we've seen a significant increase."


Acito is the hospital's chief nursing officer. On Thursday, 106 employees were out sick, 26 of them nurses.

For those at work, holding up cellphones so patients can FaceTime their loved ones is still a big part of the job description.

"To see that care for patients day in and day out, and then work so hard and not win the battle, it's a lot," Acito said.

Nearly 6,000 hospital staff members across New Jersey have gotten COVID since Christmas. The state is asking its National Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help with staffing.

Fourteen hospitals in the state face a critical staffing shortage, and at least three more are expected to by the end of the week. And that's as the state is seeing more than 700 patients in the ICU.

"It's always a worry. It's always a concern in the back of my head," Acito said of not having enough nurses.


Nurse Lauren Boniello has worked at Holy Name for almost 10 years. She said the pandemic has been incredibly difficult due to the loss of patients and co-workers to COVID.

"In the beginning of the pandemic, we lost an employee who everyone was very familiar of and really worked alongside," Boniello said. "I happened to be eight and a half months pregnant at that time, so it was a challenging day. It was a very emotional day, but it was something that we got through together."

And almost two years later, they're still pushing on.

Boniello said there are things she wants the public to know about what she and her fellow nurses are going through.

"I think they need to know that we are here for any patient that walks through that door. When we're here, we're here 150% for our patients," she said.

Acito said her biggest concern for her staff is burnout after a two-year, seemingly never-ending cycle. Of the patients in the ICU at Holy Name, all but two are unvaccinated and the two who are have comorbidities that left them prone to severe illness.

CBS2's Nikki Batiste contributed to this report.

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