PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With hospitals filling up and coronavirus cases surging across the country, health care workers say the mental-emotional toll is weighing heavy.
In a recent survey from Mental Health America, 93 percent of health care workers reported feeling stressed.
“The easiest word to describe the mentality is numb,” said Gavin Bordogna, a nurse at Allegheny Health Network’s Forbes Hospital.
Bordogna works in one of the hospital’s coronavirus units and just recovered from the virus himself. He and his coworkers are trying to balance increased demand with concerns over their own health.
“A lot of people are struggling with the idea that they can’t be there 24/7 because realistically, with what we’re seeing, that’s kind of what we need,” Bordogna said.
State Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said by next week, about one-third of hospitals in our region could be facing staff shortages as workers themselves get sick.
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With that comes the added pressure on hospital staff of remaining hypervigilant to avoid getting sick at home and at work. That means many activities that could reduce stress and burnout are off the table, according to AHN Psychiatrist Dr. PV Nickell.
“Being with family or friends, going out to do fun things, going to the gym, a lot of very adaptive and healthy ways of coping with extra stress are not an option right now,” he said.
Health care workers are asking the public to alleviate one major area of stress.
Bordogna, Nickell and UPMC Passavant Chief Nursing Officer Lisa Bryan-Morris all said seeing people choosing not to follow virus mitigation efforts has become one of the more frustrating parts of working through this pandemic.
“You feel defeated when you hear that because you know that people just aren’t really listening,” Bryan-Morris said.
They each say following those measures, like wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, is the best way the general public can help health care workers.
Through tears, Bordogna emphasized wearing a mask.
“Wearing your mask will bring people back home to their families,” he said. “It’s been rough. If something so small could help such a greater picture, I think that we would all be superheroes at one point or another.”