Fourth COVID wave taking a toll on health care workers

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 9:34 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Since the start of the pandemic, the threat of catching COVID has brought increased anxiety for many frontline workers, especially in health care. Our Rachel Mann checked in to see how some providers are doing during the current fourth wave.

Rachel Foxx, a nurse at the UVM Medical Center says working throughout the pandemic has been taxing for both her and her family. “We get home and we’re spent. Our families are feeling the brunt of that. Our bodies are feeling the brunt of that,” she said.

Foxx works in the maternity unit but has also been working with COVID patients over the past year. “It certainly takes a toll mentally and physically. We don’t see our families as much. When we are home, we’re exhausted. it’s a weary kind of tired you can’t sleep away,” Foxx said.

In addition to the pandemic, health care workers like Foxx are working nearly 60 hours a week due to staffing shortages. “We are just more worn out. We are still working just as hard or harder. We’re working harder because we’re short-staffed. Now, we are working with patients who need more care,” she said.

UVMMC officials say says they are doing everything they can to help frontline workers. Craig Stevens, the supervisor of employer health management, says they offer a range of resources such as connections to counseling services and free, healthy snacks.

“We really are of the mindset that if you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your patients. So, you have to make sure you take care of yourself so the patients get the care they deserve,” he said.

Mental health professionals say the stress and grief associated with the pandemic is a type of prolonged trauma. “So often, especially in health care professions, there’s a need to feel like you have it together and you can do all the things. While they can do all the things and they’re rocking it and are awesome, it’s okay not to be okay,” said Kristine Reynolds, a licensed clinical social worker.

As for Foxx, she says while the resources from the hospital are nice recognition of their work, snacks can only go so far. Despite the stress, she says her patients give her the energy to keep going.

Reporter Rachel Mann: Have you ever questioned your decision to become a nurse?

Rachel Foxx: Never. I love what I do. I get so much more from my patients than I give them. I really feel that on days I’m not at the bedside.

Reynolds says health care workers feeling like they’re in a funk should start by prioritizing their basic needs, including a balanced diet and sleep. If it feels unmanageable, she urges them to get professional help.

Foxx emphasizes the pandemic hasn’t affected the quality of patient care, but she encourages people to get vaccinated and wear masks to take some stress of the system.

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