Hospitals across the U.S. are bracing for a mental health crisis among doctors and nurses, who are left physically and emotionally drained after treating COVID-19 patients.
The Wall Street Journal said the pandemic has increased the psychological burdens felt across the spectrum of hospital staff.
“It’s heartbreaking,” says Elissa Epel, vice chair of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. “We think of our physicians as invulnerable, but we’re putting them in untenable situations.”
A New York City emergency room physician committed suicide last month just days after telling family members about traumatic scenes she had seen working in New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital.
Dennis Charney, president for academic affairs at Mount Sinai Health System, predicted that 25% to 40% of first responders and healthcare workers in the U.S. will experience some form of stress or post-traumatic stress disorder due to the pandemic.
And the Journal noted that hospitals are launching programs to support their workers. The Northwell Health System in New York has established a 24-hour “emotional support resource call center” for staffers looking for help. Other healthcare systems have developed apps intended to reduce stress. And some healthcare workers have established Zoom support groups.
“Emergency physicians are drawn to the field because they like looking after really sick people,” says Michael Myers, a psychiatry professor at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center. “But they are very vocal about the fact that they’re just not used to so much death.”
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