“I have extreme anxiety,” says Debbie Sánchez, a nurse who cares for coronavirus patients at a Bronx hospital, one of the districts in New York most affected by the pandemic that has killed more than 14,400 people in tears. this city in just over a month.
“All the changes in my whole life, that’s what is stressful,” explains this 57-year-old nurse who now has to work 12 hours a day and weekends at the epicenter of the crisis in the United States, trying to keep alive patients admitted to intensive care at Montefiore Hospital.
She hasn’t seen her granddaughter or her mother for more than a month for fear of infecting them. She is also concerned about being wrong since until before the crisis she worked in the emergency room and does not have intensive care training. “I have trouble sleeping,” he confesses.
Part of the billions of people in isolation around the world is suffering from anxiety and depression. But for healthcare professionals on the front lines of the battle with COVID-19, who face disease and death every day and are at high risk of contagion, the new reality is incredibly harsh.
“These are times that are testing our resilience,” says Jonathan Ripp, an internist who runs the Mt. Sinai Hospital Network’s internal wellness program in New York, who has gone from doing home visits to the elderly to AFP. admit COVID-19 sufferers to the emergency room.
Meditation and tai chi
Ripp is a co-author of a study that seeks to understand the sources of anxiety among medical personnel during the pandemic, and which was published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
“Will we have enough protective equipment? How will I get to work? Who will take care of my children? What will it be like to work in another unit that I don’t know? What will happen if I am with seriously ill patients who are dying?” Are some of the staff concerns, according to Ripp.
Mt. Sinai has attempted to answer all staff questions, provides information on a dedicated website, created a 24-hour mental health hotline, has virtual support groups, and offers meditation, yoga, or tai chi classes.
Mental health professionals also proactively contact staff on the battlefront to ask how they feel.
“Signs of trauma”
The worst day for Heather Isola, a 36-year-old medical assistant who directs more than 900 of her colleagues at the eight huge Mt. Sinai hospitals, was when one of them was diagnosed with COVID-19 and was hospitalized in serious condition.
At least 26 New York public hospital employees died from COVID-19, according to official figures released last Friday.
For Dawn Brown, director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) helpline for medical personnel, “This is a tragic situation.”
“We are beginning to see signs of trauma” in health professionals “and this has far-reaching consequences,” he told AFP.
Sánchez tries not to consult Facebook and has disconnected from the WhatsApp group he had with colleagues. “It is too much stress (…) Sometimes I feel sad and I want to cry,” she says, unable to contain the emotion.