A message from Cambridge Health Alliance emailed Wednesday.

Cambridge Health Alliance, coping with staff shortages like many other hospitals during the latest Covid-19 surge, is turning to a novel source for job applicants: its patients. The Alliance sent messages to its patient email list Wednesday, announcing, “CHA is Hiring!” and inviting them to apply.

Spokesperson David Cecere said the health care system chose to solicit applications from patients as “one of many strategies we are using to reach diverse audiences who may have an interest in joining CHA and improving the health of our patients and communities.”

The message to patients said: “This is a great time to improve yourself and the world around us … As a CHA patient, you understand what people expect from their health care system. So help us improve our efforts!”

Cambridge Health Alliance is a safety net hospital serving many low-income and uninsured patients, groups hard hit by Covid-19.

It’s not known whether any other Massachusetts hospital has invited patients to apply for jobs. Asked whether the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association knew of a similar effort, vice president of clinical affairs Patricia Noga didn’t answer directly. “Hospitals across Massachusetts are facing staffing challenges and are using every tool at their disposal to recruit talented, qualified individuals,” Noga said. “We encourage all community members who are drawn to the health care field to explore the opportunities available in their area, as there is a place for people of all backgrounds and education levels.”

The Alliance has 580 job openings, according to its hiring website. They run the gamut from jobs not requiring a high school diploma to senior leadership positions. Coincidentally, four open jobs are Covid-19 contact tracers who were supposed to help Cambridge and three other communities control virus transmission after a state-supported contact tracing operation ended Dec. 1, more than six weeks ago.

Nurses and educators

The CHA website warns patients that it may take longer to get phone calls and messages answered because of staff shortages. Also, some public schools are sharing a school nurse because not enough school nurses are available, Cambridge Public Health Department medical director Lisa Dobberteen told a Jan. 5 meeting of the school system’s Safety, Health & Facilities Working Group. CHA operates the city’s public health department, which oversees school nurses.

An unusual outreach effort by Cambridge Public Schools this month shows nursing isn’t even the extent of district staffing woes. On Jan. 5 it sent out a social media plea for substitute teachers – with a bachelor’s degree requirement waived for the year, though applicants “must have some educational experience” – that reappeared in a superintendent’s message Jan. 10.

Unfilled positions coupled with increased demand for medical care for Covid-19 and other serious illnesses have kept the Alliance and other hospitals full. During the first week of January, CHA had only one intensive-care bed free on average, and 176 inpatient beds were occupied out of 206 beds, according to the most recent report on a federal website tracking hospital capacity. The Alliance has hospitals in Cambridge and Everett.

Mount Auburn Hospital, the city’s other hospital, had nine ICU beds available, and 159 of 178 inpatient beds were occupied.