Nurses feel burnout, brace for surge in omicron cases

Coronavirus

(NewsNation Now) — It is important to talk about the mental health of our nation’s health care workers.

We’ve been in this pandemic for two years. Hospitals and medical offices are increasingly understaffed as COVID cases are once again spiking and people just want to wrap up the year on a healthy note.

“The well-being of our staff, I think, is top of mind for everyone in health care,” Kristin Ramsey, chief nurse executive for Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said during an appearance on “Morning in America”.

“We’re seeing unprecedented numbers of health care providers leave the profession,” Ramsey added. “I think going on a two-year pandemic with both professional and personal strains that this pandemic has put upon our health care providers, is taxing. And I think we’re reaching the end of our emotional and physical fortitude to be able to fight this.”

Ramsey said that her hospital is seeing an increase in demand for emergency room services, primary care services and for inpatient services.

“We are seeing a rise in our cases, just like about every organization in the country,” she said. “Omicron is coming into our environment.”

Registered nurse Bryan Hofilena attaches a “COVID Patient” sticker on a body bag of a patient who died of coronavirus at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. Many hospitals across the country are struggling to cope with burnout among doctors, nurses and other workers. Already buffeted by a crush of patients from the ongoing surge of the coronavirus’s delta variant, they’re now bracing for the fallout of another highly transmissible mutation. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Not everybody who gets infected with the omicron variant is going to the hospital, as symptoms have been reported to be milder than in previous strains.

“Unfortunately, what we’re seeing are the unvaccinated patients come in,” Ramsey said. “After all the education that we provided, all the signs that we’ve provided, it’s still the unvaccinated that are requiring the intensive care that the hospitals provide.”

The flu season has only added to the caseloads seen at hospitals dealing with seasonal respiratory illnesses in addition to COVID patients.

“It’s an interesting time of the year because we have patients that are wanting to get regular health care before January when their deductibles start again,” Ramsey said. “So it’s a real interesting confluence of many variables that we’re seeing now, not only the surge, but other underlying conditions, and the folks wanting to get their care before insurance starts again.”

The COVID outbreak may have revealed preexisting issues with an already strained healthcare system.

“I think this is going to reset health care,” Ramsey said of the toll the pandemic has had on health care workers. “We’re going to have to take a pause and really look at how do we provide an environment that health care providers can do what they do best — and that’s take care of patients.”

Ramsey says it’s the basic needs of health care workers that have to be met so they can perform their jobs.

“It saves staffing. It’s an environment where they can grow and develop. It’s being paid well for the job well done,” Ramsey said. “And it’s also remembering that there are stressors outside of this organization and personal life.”

“This is really stressed health care,” she added. “I think it’s going to take a couple of years for us really redefining how we provide health care so we don’t continue to tax the system and tax our health care providers.”

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