COVID-19 threatens hospital workers’ mental health

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) —Pressure is mounting for hospital workers fighting to flatten the curve, while also shielding their families from harm.

“It has been very different than anything I’ve experienced in the ER,” Christa Wagner, registered nurse for Metro Health, said.

As doctors and nurses work to fight a virus they can’t even see, they fear they could bring it home after spending hours treating infected patients.

“They’re concerned about their spouses and kids at home and bringing the potential virus back,” Wagner said.

Kalamazoo nurses are also familiar with the struggle. Several of them went great lengths to keep COVID-19 out of their homes.

“I actually sent my children away. I don’t want them around me when I can possibly be asymptomatic and expose them,” Jamie Brown, Critical Care nurse at Ascension Borgess Hospital, said. “That’s what a lot of nurses are doing. Some are sleeping in their garages and tents.”

Brown said fighting the outbreak is rough on all medical professionals. To make matters more intense, she said  some of her fellow nurses in Kalamazoo are being asked to consider helping in Detroit hospitals.

“Right now, it’s volunteer requests,” Brown said. “However, we are only being offered two dollars more an hour to go and put our life at risk.”

As medical professionals work to care for sick and even dying patients, psychologists urge them to speak up if they, too, are suffering.

“We want them to have a connection person and that’s maybe just a safe person in their own lives, but it can also be mental heath support,” Lyndsay Volpe-Bertram, Clinical Psychologist at Spectrum Health, said.

Experts said spouses and even kids can give hospitals the support they need.

“It’s really good for family members to just be checking in saying, hey what do you need right now, how can I be there for you, what can I do for you?” Volpe-Bertram said.

Above all, nurses and doctors said they are glad to help and call on everyone in scrubs and white coats to have mercy on each other.

“Give each other grace and keep smiling,” Wagner said.

A spokesperson for Metro Health said hospital staff that “need emotional support have access to Encompass. It’s a private and confidential employee assistance program that offers 24/7 access to counseling services. It is done via phone, chat or through video. It is a free service we have always offered our employees, even before COVID-19. We also have Metro Health social workers offering support as well as our hospital chaplain.”

Pam Ries, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer at Spectrum Health, said her staff is committed to ensuring they receive help they need.

In a statement to News 8 she said, “The health and well-being of our team members is of utmost importance to us. Spectrum Health provides a variety of services and support for team members, including an ‘in the moment’ hotline to reach a mental health professional through our employee assistance program. An online hub of internal resources also is available to all staff in the areas of emotional and mental health support, clinician wellness, healthy living, spiritual resources, childcare and more. We are working diligently to manage this ever-changing situation and to support our staff.”

TRACKING CORONAVIRUS

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