69ºF

Who’s caring for the caregivers?

SAN FRANCISCO – Being a healthcare professional is stressful enough during normal times. Now with COVID, those on the frontline of this crisis are feeling the burden the most. In fact, a recent study found a 60% increase in emotional exhaustion and burnout. So, who is caring for our caregivers?

It’s a strange time for Hedieh Matinrad, chief resident of internal medicine at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

“I’ve certainly felt more anxiety. There’s not just worrying about your family or your patients,” Dr. Matinrad said.

The nurses are feeling the stress, too.

“I think the hardest thing is people are feeling these feelings and we’re conflicted. We’re healthcare workers, we should be able to handle this,” shared Jill Sproul, chief nursing officer at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

Exhaustion isn’t new. Before the pandemic, research reveals that two-thirds of emergency physicians already reported feeling burned-out.

“I’ve had staff say, ‘you know, I just find it hard to get up in the morning. I’m dreaming about COVID. I can’t sleep at night,’” Sproul said.

So as a result, more and more hospitals are finding ways to care for their caregivers.

“The resident-wellness program is essentially a group of residents who create a sense of community to talk about and process what they’re experiencing,” Matinrad said.

De-briefing sessions with psychologists have also become an important way for both doctors and nurses working in trauma to manage their stress.

“… And really talk about what they’re witnessing in suffering of patients,” Matinrad continued.

However, sometimes that’s not enough. That’s why Dr. Matinrad and her residents have taken the leap into one-on-one therapy sessions.

“We’re so good at just compartmentalizing … move on. This is not something to go through alone,” Matinrad said.

“We’re all human and we all need support,” Sproul added.

With potential spikes continuing through winter, the World Health Organization is calling on measures to address the physical and emotional safety of healthcare workers. Experts also say COVID-19 has exposed the lack of attention given to our country’s mental health.