Hoosiers volunteer to help hospitals during COVID-19 pandemic

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - As hospitals race to create more space for patients, staffing will become one of the biggest challenges.

IU Health tells us hospitals will need more personnel to take care of the many sick people.

The Indiana State Department of Health launched an online survey over the weekend to recruit health care workers. They are asking any licensed health care worker who is willing to volunteer or work above and beyond their current hours to complete the survey as soon as possible.

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 11,000 volunteers had been identified.

Jacqueline Sobotka plans to return to work at a hospital after she left her job as a respiratory therapist about a year ago. She signed up to work in a central Indiana hospital before ISDH posted the survey.

She was a respiratory therapist for 10 years until she committed full-time to her other passion as an online fitness and nutrition coach.

"If we can at least help there I think that will make a huge difference," said Sobotka.

She was pulled in to work on the front lines during this pandemic. She will start her new job on Monday and plans to work three days a week for at least six weeks. She still plans to coach her clients during then.

"Every person that shows up will be the reason we can get over this," she said.

Dr. Chris Weaver, the Senior VP of Clinic Effectiveness for IU Health, explained staffing and equipment will be some of the biggest challenges for hospitals.

"It is not going to be comfortable," Weaver said. "We are definitely trying to push things and be creative."

In March, Eli Lilly began offering drive-thru testing for health care workers and first responders.

They have tested nearly 6,000 people for COVID-19 so far. About half of those are patients who were sampled at hospitals and sent to the company by ISDH. The other 3,000 are people tested at their drive-through.

In the drive-through, about 10-15% of first responders and health care workers tested positive for COVID-19. That means about 300 have tested positive so far. Results are available in about one to three days.

Hospitals are now educating people who want to fill in.

"If it's a nurse who is used to be in a surgery center and they are going to be on the floor with critical care patients then they wouldn’t be completely on their own," said Dr. Weaver at IU Health.

More than 11,000 volunteers have already completed the state's survey. Sobotka hopes others will do the same.

"If it was your family in that bed would you want somebody to show up," she said.

On Monday, Governor Holcomb signed an executive order to expand the pool of health care workers.

People who are not currently licensed to practice in the state, either because their Indiana license is no longer active or they are licensed by another state, may obtain temporary authorization to provide health care services.

This applies to retired health care professionals, medical students, medical residents, physician assistant students, nursing students, respiratory care practitioner students, and out-of-state health care professionals.

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