Our Healthcare Workers Are Burned Out, And It's Our Fault

by Nikkya Hargrove
Originally Published: 

We all know that the choices we make matter — it’s even what we teach our kids. Yet with COVID-19, some people refuse to wear masks. Some people don’t wash their hands as often as they should or use hand sanitizer. Some people believe they are invincible — until they get COVID-19 and need urgent care.

They are walking into an already-overwhelmed system. They are being cared for by healthcare workers who are exhausted, some of them sick themselves, but asked to come to work because of the shortage of staff. As we all move through this next wave of COVID-19 together, let’s remember that the doctors and nurses, support staff, and receptionists at the hospitals have families of their own, and fears and anxieties like the rest of us — yet they push through to show up for us, care for us, and saved the lives of our loved ones.

As a country, we recently hit a milestone, exceeding 11 million cases across the country, with 1 million cases in California alone. Our nation is hurting, and families are reeling from the misinformation and the unknowns of what will come of their health or family’s in the coming weeks. What we do know is which precautions to take to help slow the spread, to keep us out of the hospitals — which is the key to keeping our beloved healthcare workers safe.

If we’ve not been hospitalized for COVID-19 or we’ve not had a loved one hospitalized, we have no idea how many different people play a role in keeping our loved ones alive while they’re in the hospital. From doctors to nurses, to custodians and technicians, to respiratory therapists and the spiritual care team, it’s an all hands on deck approach to give each patient the comprehensive care they deserve.

In a recent article in The Atlantic, writer Ed Young said, “Intensive-care units are called that for a reason. A typical patient with a severe case of COVID-19 will have a tube connecting their airways to a ventilator, which must be monitored by a respiratory therapist. If their kidneys shut down, they might be on 24-hour dialysis. Every day, they’ll need to be flipped onto their stomach, and then onto their back again—a process that requires six or seven people.”

It’s not just medication that saves COVID-19 patients–it’s real people: nurses, doctors, and other specialists. “They’ll have several tubes going into their heart and blood vessels, administering eight to 12 drugs—sedatives, pain medications, blood thinners, antibiotics, and more,” Young continues. “All of these must be carefully adjusted, sometimes minute to minute, by an ICU nurse. None of these drugs is for treating COVID-19 itself. An ICU nurse can typically care for two people at a time, but a single COVID-19 patient can consume their full attention. Those patients remain in the ICU for three times the length of the usual stay.”


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It’s not just about what happens when someone arrives in the emergency room exhibiting symptoms of COVID; it’s about what happens when they enter the doors of the hospital, how many healthcare workers jump in to make sure their patients are comfortable, both physically and emotionally, so they can get them on the right road to recovery. At the end of the day, a critical COVID-19 patient requires more care, attention, and interventions than most other patients, taxing all hospital healthcare workers.

Hospital beds and equipment are already filled to the max. Dr. Eli Perencevich, an infectious disease doctor at the University of Iowa, shared, “The wave hasn’t even crashed down on us yet. It keeps rising and rising, and we’re all running on fear. The health-care system in Iowa is going to collapse, no question.” On top of that, we are currently in the middle of flu season. There are other reasons people are heading to the hospital besides COVID-19, and they need quality care as well.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, and national COVID-19 numbers expected to soar through the holiday season, we need to find our common sense and use it. For the holidays, we need to stay home. We need to reinstate self-quarantine since we clearly will not have a federal response to guide us or show up for the hospital staff in the way that we need them to. So, we must do it ourselves — for the betterment of the health of our society as a whole, but also the health and safety of doctors and support staff that we rely so critically on.

Please do your part to help ease the burdens, fears, and anxieties our healthcare workers are facing each and every day. They work hard and risk their lives to help us. Like us, they must go to work to feed their families. They should not have to risk dying because of our stupidity and refusal to be compassionate.

What can you do to help? It’s quite simple: stay home, wear a mask when you must go out, practice social distance, clean your hands often, repeat. It’s really common sense. We are not invincible, science is real, and the precautions provided to us by Dr. Fauci work.

We all have a role to play, let’s get to it.

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