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Stressed nurses are leaving the profession as COVID surges, health official says

Emory Healthcare's Chief Nurse Executive says the new surge has nurses exhausted, leaving the profession, and it's causing a lack of care access in hospitals.

ATLANTA — Coronavirus in Georgia is surging, with the highly transmissible Delta variant driving the increase in cases.

Dr. Andy Jaffal, Chief Medical Officer with Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, said health professionals are expecting this new uptick to surpass the previous highest peak in an "urgent" press conference with other health officials on the state of COVID.

Sharon Pappas, PhD, RN, Chief Nurse Executive with Emory Healthcare joined the group in front of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium Thursday morning with a desperate cry for help as one doctor called the COVID situation "grim."

Pappas has spent 40 years in the nursing profession. She said she has now seen some of the "strongest professionals" she has ever known leave or pause their careers due to the stress of the pandemic.

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"These subsequent decreases in staffing have directly correlated to our ability to put out access to care," Pappas said. 

With unvaccinated patients placing a strain in hospitals in the metro Atlanta area, it's impacting COVID-19 patients and patients without the virus alike. 

"They require specialized care too, and some of them have long hospital stays. This combination is leading our already busy hospitals to have longer wait times in emergency departments and longer wait times just to get into a hospital bed," Pappas said.

It's a trend that is now seen again throughout the nation after the previous highest point of cases. According to Pappas, it's taking a toll on clinicians. 

RELATED: Metro Atlanta hospitals give 'urgent' update on state of COVID

"Additionally, patients being treated for COVID are putting those in our care facilities as well as those who work there at risk both physically and emotionally," she said.

Pappas and several other health officials at the press conference continued, pleading with residents in the area to get vaccinated. Health officials say COVID vaccinations have been proven to drastically reduce hospitalizations and severe illness. 

"I want everyone to think for a minute of your loved ones -- your children, your grandchildren, your spouse, or significant other. I know you want the best for them including access to healthcare they need. If we're unable to curb the spread of COVID, accessible and critical care may be much harder to receive," Pappas said.

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