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NH National Guard soldiers filling hospital staffing shortage

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 6:04 PM EST
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WOODSVILLE, N.H. (WCAX) - New Hampshire National Guard soldiers are being deployed to hospitals across the region to help with serious staffing issues.

Washing dishes and preparing food is not exactly the type of work soldiers imagined they would be doing when they signed up for the New Hampshire National Guard, but when duty calls, they step up.

“At the point when we reached out for help to get the National Guard here, we were going to be able to serve patients but we were not going to be able to open our café to serve staff,” said Natalie Kennett, the chief nursing officer at Cottage Hospital in Woodsville.

On this day, three-quarters of the hospital’s usual kitchen staff is out. It’s a staffing crunch that’s been amplified in recent weeks and a void that these three soldiers have been filling since December. “The hospital isn’t about doctors and nurses, it’s about all the pieces that go into it,” Kennett said.

“With any organization, you have the main goal of the organization, then you also have the people behind it who make it run,” said New Hampshire National Guard Lt. Ryan Camp.

Earlier in the pandemic, the Guard was deployed for various responses including the staffing of testing and mass vaccination sites. “I never once thought I would be on orders for at one point for six months and then again almost four months after that for a whole new set of orders,” Camp said.

Orders include a variety of non-clinical jobs like housekeeping and guest services. They are being filled by guardsmen and women in hospitals across the state. “When we got here they didn’t have a lot of people and you could tell moral was kind of down, they were struggling,” said Guard Specialist Aaron Tupper.

But as the mission continues, the soldiers say they can see the atmosphere changing. “You can just tell over the weeks we have been there, their moods have improved and they are just all happy to see us here. Almost everybody I pass in the hall says thank you for being here,” Tupper said.

Four additional facilities in New Hampshire’s North Country will begin receiving support from soldiers next week. The deployments are expected to last through March.

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