As area health officials brace for a potential new COVID-19 wave fueled by the Delta variant, they must also keep an eye on the human resources that would be mobilized again to deal with the issue.
This was pointed out during a media briefing by Avera Sacred Heart Hospital (ASHH) officials Monday as they discussed preparations for the next possible surge, which seems to be building throughout the region. (South Dakota saw more than 1,000 new cases Tuesday, the biggest jump since last December.) They acknowledged what their health-care workers have dealt with, particularly during the surge that hit hard late last year.
“Our staff has experience now and is prepared for this, but they’re also still really impacted by what they saw the first time around,” said Nathan Johnson, Communications & Public Relations Partner at ASHH. “There was an amount of tragedy and, honestly, death (that) nurses saw in that short time period that many nurses haven’t seen in their whole career. We’re very cognizant of that and the concern that employees have going into this again, so we’re trying to provide all of the resources we can to make sure our staff stays healthy and strong.”
The past several months, we’ve heard many stories about what doctors, nurses and first responders had to deal with during the 2020 COVID surge. It was a constant battle not only against the virus but also with the enormous stresses of dealing with sickness and death while also worrying about their own health and loved ones in the face of a global pandemic.
A study released by the University of Utah last January indicated that more than 50% of doctors, nurses and other emergency personnel involved in COVID-19 care may be at risk for mental health problems such as acute traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, alcohol use and insomnia.
It’s important to keep this in mind now should another wave of COVID come, as it currently appears.
One plus this time around is that the workers and health officials likely have a better idea of what to expect. It may be hard to think of that as a positive, but health officials would seem to be in a better position to help personnel deal with issues that may arise. The road is not so new this time.
We cannot say enough about the job these health professionals have done during the pandemic, especially in the far more uncertain days before the arrival of vaccines. And we cannot thank them enough for what they faced amid the sickness, death, fear and isolation. They were as much on the front line as a soldier in any war, and they were fighting for us.
These caregivers deserve the best care possible if their mental health becomes a casualty of the demands of the pandemic. Here’s hoping health organizations are prepared to help them, just as those professionals are prepared to help us.