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Children's health care overwhelmed by RSV, flu & COVID-19 'tripledemic'
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Pulmonary nurse, Laura Jaramillo, at Children's Hospital Colorado talks about a tough winter with RSV, the flu and COVID-19.
Children's Hospital Colorado

AURORA, Colo. After three years of a global pandemic, Children’s Hospital Colorado pulmonary nurse Laura Jaramillo thought there might be a lull before the typical start of respiratory illness season.

Not this year. Health care workers in Colorado — and across the country — are dealing with what is being called a "tripledemic" to describe is the convergence of COVID-19, RSV and the flu.  

“We knew there would be influxes but everyone all getting sick at once, it was really overwhelming,” said Jaramillo. In November, Children’s Hospital Colorado even set up a tent outside the hospital to treat children when the emergency department was full.

And respiratory season started earlier than normal this year. 

Colorado Voices

The influx of COVID, flu and RSV cases have nurses stressed


"Full transparency, I don’t think nurses are totally OK right now"

Oftentimes, all of this adds up to immense stress for nurses like Jaramillo. 

“It’s not just inpatients and people coming into the emergency department, but we had really long emergency department wait times, and families who didn’t want to come in because of that,” she explained.

Jaramillo said it could take up to 11 hours for a child to see an emergency room provider at times. And she empathizes with families who are facing this reality.

“It’s stressful to have a family with a kid and you tell them your kid really needs to be seen or you need to go to the emergency department and they’re like, ‘But I don’t want to go for 11 hours ... standing room only.’'" Jaramillo said. "I get that, but your child still really needs to be seen.”

Jaramillo, who has three children of her own, said she is always a nurse, even if she is not at the hospital.

“You take it home. Our job doesn’t end as a nurse because family is calling, friends are calling, neighbors are calling, and I’ve had some ask me to come take a look at their kiddos," Jaramillo said.

“Full transparency, I don’t think nurses are totally OK right now,” she added. 

Jaramillo explained that one of the most important things that she practices in order to avoid too much burnout is self-care. 

Laura Jaramillo and her family. Photo: Laura Jaramillo.

“Listening to music taking baths, getting outside," she elaborated. "I’ve been trying to get better about walking and just getting outside of the walls and I’m lucky that I have a supportive husband who can shift and we can figure out who needs to take responsibility during respiratory season."

Jaramillo said that the main thing that keeps her going is knowing that nursing is something she believe she was always been meant to do. 

“The reason so many of us show up and come back is because we care about patients; it’s a calling. You can’t just not come to work, because if you don’t come to work then that affects kids and families and communities," she said. "It’s literally people’s lives.”

Dana Knowles is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at

Lindsey Ford is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at

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