ECU College of Nursing partners with NCDHHS to place nurses in understaffed facilities

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – An ECU professor is leading an effort to place nurses in North Carolina facilities that have lost employees due to COVID-19.

Dr. Jan Tillman works with doctoral students in ECU’s College of Nursing.

Her students are on the front lines fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

She wanted to find a way to help.

“It’s a patient care issue,” said Tillman. “It’s just a plain safety issue. You’ve got to have people to take care of people in long-term care and you’ve got to have people with patience who can see the bigger picture and care for the vulnerable in our society.”

Tillman says North Carolina is seeing a shortage in long-term care facility workers.

“Whether it’s due to those staff members having COVID themselves and not being able to work for that at least 14-day period of time until they test negative, or because they don’t feel safe themselves being in healthcare situations that they are exposed to COVID on a daily basis,” she said.

Tillman wanted to help, but says she’s too old to be on the front lines.

“I felt like I wasn’t contributing,” she said. “I was kind of watching North Carolina fall apart around me. I felt very out of touch with reality being sequestered to my home.”

She asked the state’s health secretary, Dr. Mandy Cohen, how she could contribute.

It led to a partnership between ECU’s Nursing School and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

“The collaboration really looks at one simple thing and that’s getting staffing, nurses and nursing assistants into long-term care facilities that have lost staff either temporarily or permanently due to COVID,” said Tillman.

Tillman has already placed about 2,000 nurses and nursing assistants in facilities across the state.

“It makes me feel absolutely relevant in my personal pracitce,” she said. “There’s just something about nursing that’s truly a calling and when you’re unable to be out and practicing, to be able to contribute, to give back to North Carolina in a valuable way is very important to me and it helps to expand what I want to do in the future with my students.”

Tillman says she and her students will work with state officials in the coming weeks to look at healthcare during pandemics to prevent future staffing shortages.

She says she needs more volunteers.

If you’re a nurse or nursing assistant and would like more information on how to get involved, email Dr. Jan Tillman at tillmanj@ecu.edu.

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