'We're overwhelmed': Travel nurse details conditions at Arizona hospital

Posted at 9:47 PM, Jan 01, 2021

It's her third city working on the front line during the COVID-19 pandemic, Arizona presents a new location but a similar challenge.

Ronnie Rodriguez, a travel nurse, previously worked during the pandemic at hospitals in New York and Florida. She came to Arizona and started working at an Arizona hospital several weeks ago.

"We're overwhelmed," Rodriguez said. "Our [emergency rooms] are maxed; they're opening up units that are normally not in use."

Rodriguez said the scene at the hospital is all too familiar.

"It's just as busy as everywhere else," she said. "I don't think it's as chaotic as New York but, like, compared to South Florida it's very similar. I do feel like here it's a little bit more structured so that definitely makes a difference."

When dealing with some COVID-19 patients who are able to talk, Rodriguez said some have similar stories that date back to Thanksgiving get-togethers.

"They're like 'we got together,' and some family member was maybe asymptomatic, and they didn't have any symptoms, so everyone thought they were okay and then after the holiday somebody tested positive and everyone else in the family has come down with it," she said.

Rodriguez also said it's not just about what she sees on the front line, but what she hears.

"Most hospitals, it's 'code blue,'" Rodriguez said. "So if you hear 'code blue,' it's probably somebody who stopped breathing somewhere. Before COVID-19, you might hear it every now and then, you know once a day. But now it's eight, ten, twelve times a shift. It's a lot."

Rodriguez also shared that COVID-19 is affecting her not just professionally, but personally, as both her parents are in the hospital battling the virus in Florida. She said her dad is still in the ICU.

"Around the clock, if I'm at work or if I'm at home here in Arizona, I still have to worry about COVID-19," she said. "It's hard when it's... your own family members. Makes it [another] level of difficult."

However, she is determined to help battle the surge in Arizona.

"Nursing is a calling," Rodriguez said. "It's what I'm here to do. I have to. Have to help."

This article was written by Mike Pelson for KNXV.