Our Health Care Heroes Are Getting Fed Up With Us
Frontline healthcare workers see us. They see you traveling to large indoor holiday gatherings. They see you packing in bars. You can see your social media posts from house parties. They see you without a mask.
And they know they will soon see some of you again, crammed into increasingly crowded hospitals as coronavirus infections skyrocket in the United States.
For nine months, doctors, nurses, and other hospital, nursing home, and clinic workers have put their lives and those of their family members at risk as they respond to a pandemic that has sickened 18 million Americans and killed more than 320,000 people. More than 3,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 every day for the past few weeks, more than even during the first spike in infections in the spring.
The flood of infectious patients pouring into hospitals threatens to overwhelm the entire healthcare system. Seriously ill patients suffer and die alone, with health care workers often the only witness to their last moments. The health facilities are understaffed, but the sick keep coming back. There is never enough personal protective equipment (also known as PPE) like masks. Illness and death are part of a medical profession. But not that much, that long, and the end is at least months away.
Medical professionals are physically and mentally exhausted. The Americans are not doing any better for them. All along, health care workers have been asking us to be safe, to wear masks when around other people, to be socially distant when around, so as not to be in groups Coming together indoors. They still want that and they are tired of asking.
"Don't praise me, don't call me a hero - none of these. Stay home," said Raul Garcia, a nurse in El Paso, Texas. "Stay home, take care, stop seeing other family members. Stay just at home, "he said." At the end of the day, it's a lack of compassion. "
Misinformation and misconduct
When these frontline workers drive home at the end of their shift, they see the behavior that will lead to more coronavirus infections. They also endure angry comments and unsafe behavior from COVID-19 objectors, including patients and their own friends and family members.
"I've had several patients say," No, this is not COVID. This is by no means COVID. I'll go to work tomorrow and get on with my daily life, ”said Stacey Marlow, an emergency medical practice in Waterloo, Iowa, the president of the chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians in her state.
Some parents have refused to test their children for COVID-19 despite showing symptoms or fretted over wearing a mask in the emergency room "because COVID is not real," she said.
"I've had several young people, mostly in their twenties, who went to bars and came up with classic COVID symptoms. Their answer is," There's no way I have COVID, "Marlow said." They're just so weep because they don't Have a better word, but they are very, very upset with their situation and want a magical solution. And sometimes it's really hard to hold back and not tell them the magic solution was not to go to the bars. You should have lived your life differently. "
Marlow's two young daughters know what their mother is going through and that they mustn't touch her after work until she has showered and put on clean clothes. They also understand the meaning of masks and are not afraid to tell strangers about them and save their mother the trouble, she said.
“If we go anywhere and someone has their mask on their chin, my children tell them. They say, "Mom, look, this person doesn't have their mask right. They're spreading the virus." And I say, "Yeah, they are," Marlow said. "I'm thinking about it as a public health intervention and I didn't tell them to stop saying it."
All of these things cause immense emotional and psychological pain in healthcare. It has also made more than 100,000 healthcare workers sick, killing an estimated 1,700 of them.
"They use the word haunted," said Donna Havens, dean of Villanova University College of Nursing in Philadelphia. "They are haunted by the COVID-19 experience, and they talk about caring for their employees who died while taking care of them. These are just unthinkable things."
Havens is conducting a study of the psychological impact of the pandemic on health workers. The first results of the Villanova polls are grim, she said. These workers suffer from severe to moderate depression, moderate to severe traumatic stress, moderate to severe anxiety, and moderate to severe insomnia. "This is alarming," she said.
In the early months of the pandemic, frontline health workers were hailed as heroes. In cities across America, people stepped outside every night to applaud those who fought for us against the coronavirus outbreak. Heads of government restricted daily activities to contain the spread. That helped, and healthcare workers noticed. You also noticed how many Americans seem to have stopped preventing the disease from spreading, as the rising case numbers show.
"They were celebrated in the early stages," said Havens. "That all stopped and I'm starting to hear that we were heroes first and now nobody knows we're here. We just do the best we can to stay alive," she said.
Barbara Stanerson, an Iowa City, Iowa physical therapist treating COVID-19 hospitalized patients, is no longer interested in the hero talk.
Someone said, 'Well, we want to do something for the health workers. Can we bring pizza? “I said,“ You know what? Take to the street and any person you meet without a mask will slap them in the face. That could help us, ”said Stanerson.
The trauma of working during the pandemic will continue after the pandemic ends, Havens said, putting healthcare workers at risk as disaffected doctors, nurses and others flee their jobs and are easier to find in the healthcare sector. "They are all incredibly wounded," she said.
Marlow understands this feeling. "Medicine is my calling, but it definitely asked me how long I can practice, how long I can practice full-time," she said.
Alone for the holidays
For Stanerson, COVID-19 denialism has arrived. Their family members, who live nearby in their hometown, do not wear masks and gather often. She suspects part of the problem is that her relatives are supporters of President Donald Trump, who downplayed the severity of the pandemic from the start and even insulted healthcare workers by claiming they over counted cases for financial reasons.
"It's been causing a lot of stress in the family because they are interpreting that I'm not there, like Thanksgiving or birthdays or whatever I don't care about," Stanerson said. "They just don't associate it with the COVID virus and I want to," Folks, I'm with these patients all day every day. I can't risk bringing this house to you, ”she said.
“I get angry more than anything, but sometimes it just kind of hurts because nobody wants to be alone over the holidays. I mean, it sucks, ”said Stanerson. "It's hurtful - especially friends or family."
Stanerson wishes there was some way to make people understand how serious the virus can be. She asked Cathy Glasson, president of Service Employees International Union Local 199 in Iowa City, for a macabre favor in case she should sign COVID-19.
"'If I get this virus and get really sick and be in the unit, I will blame you for coming in there and filming everything you do to me," I said. “And you published that in the media. You can get that out of there. I don't care what you're showing, but show these people what's really going on because they just don't understand. "
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
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