RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- The flu season hit hard and early. Traditionally, flu season is not expected to get going until January or February, but in 2014, it was December. The early start has forced Renown Regional Medical Center to rethink how they staff their Intensive Care Unit nurses.
In February, Renown implemented an on-call system to address the need for more nurses in their ICU. Nurses in Renown's ICU typically work 12-hour shifts, so in addition to the regularly-scheduled nurses, another five are constantly on call in case the ICU is flooded with patients.
Call systems are not new to hospitals. In fact, Renown uses it every day, in areas like the surgical center. However, Renown has not needed to use the on-call system in the ICU for five years.
Renown's Chief Nurse Officer Jeff Stout said this year's flu caught everyone off guard, and the most shocking part is that it's striking younger people. "With it hitting the younger population, we saw the need for more intense monitoring, which is why they ended up in the intensive care unit. Some of our patients ended up on ventilators as well, and we needed to be there to meet our community's needs and this is the strategy we've chosen."
Stout said since the ICU started the on call for the nurses, they have only had to use it 20% of the time.
The on-call system in Renown's ICU is not a permanent adjustment. They plan end it on April 30.