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Salt Lake County Jail recruiting nurses to help staffing shortage

Apr 4, 2022, 8:18 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 10:50 pm

SALT LAKE COUNTY — The Salt Lake County Jail is experiencing a shortage that normally impacts the healthcare sector: they can’t hire enough nurses.

They say they’re down by about a quarter of their nursing staff, and they’re hoping to fill those gaps ASAP.

The jail, which can house somewhere around 2,000 inmates, contains its own self-contained healthcare system.

Often, that healthcare is crucial for the people receiving it.

“Usually, their time here is probably their first contact with medical care, so it’s really nice to be able to help them and reach out and get them the care that they need,” nurse Erica Clark said.

She sees all kinds of patients for needs that range from general care to geriatric, to maternity and OB, to mental health, to dental care.

While it provides Clark with well-rounded experience in the medical world, she knows the people she serves may not get these services otherwise — like one inmate Clark recently helped diagnose.

Clark explained the woman was not getting out of bed or eating, and the woman described how she couldn’t “walk across the pond” in her cell, and that there was “a fairy coming out of a portal” to steal oxygen from her heart.

From that, Clark felt something more was going on and did additional assessing.

Her intuition was right.

“It turned out that she did have a heart condition and she was able to get into surgery and get that resolved,” Clark said, “So that was really great and rewarding.”

But that kind of care becomes more challenging if there aren’t enough nurses like Clark.

Sheriff Rosie Rivera explained they’re currently short 14 nurses, from the 57 usually on staff.

It means nurses working there now are absorbing the impacts of being short-staffed.

“They have to work more overtime and we have to make sure those shifts are covered, and that’s what we do,” Rivera said. “But the challenge is, do we burnout who we have? We don’t want to do that.”

Rivera described how they’ve upped salaries and added environmental pay, but can’t keep up with the rising cost of living.

Plus, they’re competing with hospitals and the private sector on hiring.

She plans to go to the Salt Lake County Council for help.

“Now, we’re going to go again and make another request, because we have to keep up with the market,” Rivera said.

She said they’re also going to make a huge push on social media and their website as they spread the word and recruit.

They’re hoping to fill the spots soon so nurses like Clark get the help they need as they provide critical care for others.

“There’s just a wide range of things. You’re never bored, it’s always changing, and you just get a lot of experience,” Clark said, of why she loves her job. “And then, you can always be there to advocate for the people who don’t have a voice and aren’t normally seen or heard.”

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Salt Lake County Jail recruiting nurses to help staffing shortage