Gov. Phil Murphy says New Jersey is engaged in a war against coronavirus. And the state needs all available nurses and health care workers to help with the statewide fight.
Murphy and other state officials said the state is putting out the call for retired and inactive doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, paramedics, school nurses and medical students to return to work to assist with the health care crisis.
"All hands on deck," Murphy said Sunday after revealing the state was working with the New Jersey Hospital Association and the New Jersey Nurses Association to try to identify and recruit available health care workers to help meet staffing needs.
He said an inventory of licensed health care workers in the state was ongoing.
"Folks who are licensed in other states who can automatically be licensed in New Jersey for health care. Retired workers. School nurses. Particular expertise from the National Guard. Specific talent within the Department of Defense. (The Department of Health) is in the process of doing a big inventory of those types of people," the governor said.
Burlington County's coronavirus task force has already activated the county's Medical Reserve Corps, a group of more than 600 health care professionals and volunteers who live and work in the county. The group trains with the county Health Department and Office of Emergency Management several times a year in order to prepare for health emergencies.
Nursing students from Rowan College at Burlington County and the The College of New Jersey are also being made available as needed, officials said.
But more staffing help is expected to be needed as the number of coronavirus cases continue to grow and testing sites are opened, including an expected one in Burlington County. No further details on the planned site were released Monday.
New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said every effort was being made to identify and recruit additional trained health care workers, including contracting with a staffing agency to assist.
"We're looking at the Division of Consumer Affairs giving up a list of licensed individuals. We're looking at certified registered nursing assistants who can help in critical care units. School nurses are on the list," Persichilli said. "We're looking at just about everything, including students who are in their last semester who cannot go back to school can work their last credits and help us with COVID-19."
Hundreds have already heeded the call, according to the New Jersey State Nurses Association, which began seeking volunteers nurses last week.
As of Monday, more than 600 active license nurses—including advanced practice nurses, school nurses and company nurses—have volunteered along with 27 student nurses and 23 retired nurses, the association reported.
A Rutgers University-Camden study has warned that Burlington County alone could face a shortfall of between 6,236 and 15,759 hospital beds at the peak of the outbreak. Across South Jersey, the shortage could be as high as 85,140 beds if "minimal" action is taken to slow the spread, versus 33,455 if strong actions are taken.