The “Parallel Pandemic” Affecting Frontline Workers

As hospitals are pushed to the brink battling COVID-19, many frontline workers are dealing with a “parallel pandemic” of burnout and PTSD. A major contributing factor to this is the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic—primarily, when it will end, especially as infection numbers are on the rise as we head into the holiday season.

Holliblu and Feedtrail conducted a nationwide survey of 1,200 nurses from more than 400 hospitals on the impact COVID-19 is having on them, and here are the findings:

  • 74% are experiencing high levels of anxiety and emotional stress. 
  • 94% are in need of peer support groups, mental health counseling or financial assistance.
  • 67% say they are planning on either leaving their current job or the healthcare industry altogether.

Contributing factors include: 

  • Concern about the risk of being exposed to the virus at work
  • Taking care of personal and family needs while working
  • Managing a different workload
  • Lack of access to the tools and equipment needed to perform their job
  • Learning new communication tools and dealing with technical difficulties

Unfortunately, these issues don’t end when healthcare workers go home—many are suffering in silence, managing depression, anxiety and fear about their jobs and the inherent safety risks. In April, the New York State Nurses Association, representing more than 3,000 nurses, filed three lawsuits against the New York State Health Department and two hospitals over the health and safety of nurses treating COVID-19 patients. Among other things, the lawsuits call out the state for not providing appropriate protective equipment for nurses, not properly training nurses deployed from hospital units, and not providing safe enough working conditions for high-risk employees. 

Dr. Brett Johnson, a psychiatrist at Rogers Behavioral Health in San Diego offers these self-care tips to people working in healthcare:  

  1. Maintain structure. If you exercised before, keep doing it. It’s important to stick to your daily routine as much as possible.
  2. Stay connected. Even as some healthcare workers transition to work from home, stay in contact with your colleagues, family, and friends. 
  3. Ask for help. Know these signs of when to ask for help: 
  • Feeling extremely fatigued
  • Have fuzzy thinking
  • Experience exaggerated emotional responses
  • Have increased irritability and anger
  • Dread going into work
  • Begin to isolate and withdraw
  • Fall increasingly behind at work and can’t seem to catch up

If you need help or know of someone who is suffering, free resources are available for healthcare professionals: 

To minimize the risk of your staff contracting COVID-19 through remote monitoring using artificial intelligence, visit VirtuSense.ai to learn more.