Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station

Nurses caring for COVID patients who don’t believe them

PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota is confronting another COVID-19 case surge, and a statewide organization for nurses said the latest phase could take a toll on staff.

It coincides with an evolving dynamic surrounding patients who are highly skeptical of pandemic information.

Memorial Regional Health

The state has seen a dramatic spike in COVID activity, with daily positive cases increasing by nearly 200% since mid-August.

Meanwhile, only 56% of eligible residents have completed their vaccination series.

Deb Fischer-Clemens, president of the South Dakota Nurses Association, said there is a sense of frustration because some patients their members see still do not believe in COVID, or in the effectiveness of vaccines.

“And now, people are suggesting that we are not telling the truth?” Fischer-Clemens recounted. “And they don’t know what we’re going through every day.”

She explained what is more painful is health-care staff go above and beyond to care for their patients, while giving them accurate information.

The association worries it could erode the longstanding trust nurses have had with the general public. For nearly two decades, they have led Gallup’s annual honesty and ethics poll. Skeptics have cited a lack of trust in what is in the vaccine, or messaging from government health officials.

Health experts say the denial should not be confused with hesitancy from marginalized groups who feel overlooked by the care industry.

Meanwhile, Fischer-Clemens pointed out nurses have seen some of their own colleagues resign in protest because they do not want to get a vaccine. She noted it all added up as those still on the front lines carry out their mission.

“I’m not sure that it’s always totally understood that it’s a huge challenge for a person to be able to do all those things and still maintain their compassion and care, hour after hour after hour, when there’s just so much that they have to deal with,” Fischer-Clemens stressed.

She worried all the pushback could prompt many nurses to leave the profession. State health officials say health-care systems could see another challenge this fall as other respiratory illnesses surface.

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photo courtesy Great Plains Fire

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