WORTHINGTON, Minn. — For the past two years of the pandemic and the resulting increase in patient numbers, the team at Sanford Worthington Medical Center has remained committed, said Kaitlin Bullerman, manager, nursing inpatient.

That commitment has allowed Sanford to keep patients close to home, she said.

Now, two additional registered nurses will allow staff who have been working a lot of extra hours to get a reprieve.

The nurses are part of a group deployed by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz to help hospitals around the state battle the COVID-19 pandemic, and the stress and exhaustion it has caused medical professionals.

The nurses, contracted for up to 60 hours of work per week for 60 days, help relieve existing staff, allowing them to take time off or simply filling in for other nurses who are ill or caring for a family member sickened by COVID-19.

“We thought it was going to be a sprint, and it became a marathon for us,” Bullerman said.

Walz announced the $40 million initiative on Jan. 12, and while each hospital could advocate for their own needs within the region, the state ultimately determined where the staffing support would be deployed.

In order to avoid competing with Minnesota hospitals for their own staff, all the state-hired nurses are coming from outside of the state.

“I know that they were very eager to come and be flexible, and relieve any staffing burden that they can,” Bullerman said.

The nurses require an orientation, but the extent and specifics of that orientation varies based on previous experience, Bullerman said.

Local COVID-19 patients are still being cared for at Sanford Worthington Medical Center, Bullerman warned, noting that vaccination is the best way to prevent the need for a coronavirus-induced hospital stay.

“It’s real,” Bullerman said. “We are still in the thick of it every single day.”

Sanford Worthington COVID-19 patients have largely been grateful for the care they receive, and relieved to see health care workers, she added.

“People in health care chose to be in health care because they have a calling for service, and they continue to do that even through the roughest of times,” said Bullerman, emphasizing how proud she is of her staff.

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