Seemingly never-ending pandemic takes toll on frontline healthcare workers

Frontline healthcare workers continue to show up and care for severe covid patients each day...
Frontline healthcare workers continue to show up and care for severe covid patients each day despite being worn down.(wsaw)
Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 6:28 PM CDT
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MARSHFIELD, Wis. (WSAW) - Frontline healthcare workers who treat COVID-19 patients feel like they are barely hanging on. Caring for severe patients every day has taken a physical, the mental and emotional toll on them.

“If we go back to last November when we had the first surge and compare that to where we are now...our staff is more stressed. They’ve been through a lot and our numbers are truly down,” said Dr. William Melms, Chief Medical Officer at Marshfield Clinic Health System.

Not only are they worn down and tired, but they’re also emotionally drained.

“It felt like in a blink of an eye, our patient population went from at least half of it being where you could walk into your patient room, say hello, give them breakfast, get them out of the bed. Now 95% of our patients are unable to speak with you. You’re unable to have that patient-to-nurse relationship,” said Ryan Letsch, ICU Nurse at Marshfield Clinic Health System.

Many patients spend months in critical condition in the ICU with constant supervision.

“Being here, we almost become the patient’s family,” said Letsch.

Which makes it even more devastating if the patient doesn’t survive.

“It’s hard to have constant relationships that end in poor outcomes,” said Letsch.

The Delta variant only makes things worse. The average age for patients in the ICU in the last few months has been between 30-35 years old according to Letsch.

Letsch says it’s hard to see someone go from an active part of the community to an ICU bed unable to talk or interact with anyone. Regardless of the emotional toll, the long pandemic has taken on staff, they continue to show up each day.

“There is no greater dedicated group of individuals to what they do,” said Dr. Melms.

Dr. Melms says the best thing people can do to help relieve medical staff is to get the covid vaccine and continue to follow guidelines to stay healthy and out of the hospital.

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