ST. LOUIS ( - As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to surge in the St. Louis region, there is mounting concern that hospitals could be stretched to the limit with equipment and staff.

Many retired nurses, like Cynthia Buatte, are eager to help however they can.

Buatte worked in the ICU, NICU and maternity wards at St. Mary's for 30 years and retired just two years ago. Now she's feeling the call to come back to the front lines.

"I guess it was just a calling from God for me. I've always been a caregiver," she said. "It's a pull to want to help, because there are people out there who need help and they're not getting help."

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Government leaders on both sides of the river agree with her, as Tuesday there were pleas for retired medical professionals to join the fight against the new coronavirus.

"This message is for my fellow medical professionals," said St. Louis County Executive Sam Page. "We need your help in St. Louis County and we need it now."

After filling out a form on the county website, Buatte is waiting for a hospital to call. But like many, she worries her skills aren't up to par.

"The field of nursing and medicine changes so rapidly," she said.

Joanne Langan teaches at the Nursing School at Saint Louis University, she teaches a refresher course for nurses every spring. Due to the outbreak, the class was canceled, but she believes the class is needed now, more than ever.

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"We can't wait until we're in a crisis mode, we need to prepare now," Langan said. "Honestly, I think we're waiting for the other shoe to drop in our area. I think we're waiting for a surge of patients and I think we're going to need these nurses again."

As Buatte waits for her call, eager to help, she's relying on the skills she's honed for 30 years.

"You have to be prepared as it gets. It's a matter of life and death," she said.

Right now, there is a push to try to get the nursing refresher course held virtually. With a shortage of nurses, News 4 reached out to SLU and Washington University to see if their soon-to-be nursing graduates could join the workforce right away. So far, they tell us there are no plans to do that.

Copyright 2020 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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