Medical workers like the young nurse have been celebrated as heroes for their commitment to treating desperately ill coronavirus patients. But the heroes are hurting, badly. Even as applause to honor them swells nightly from city windows, and cookies and thank-you notes arrive at hospitals, the doctors, nurses and emergency responders on the front lines of a pandemic they cannot control are battling a crushing sense of inadequacy and anxiety.
Every day they become more susceptible to post-traumatic stress, mental health experts say. And their psychological struggles could impede their ability to keep working with the intensity and focus their jobs require.
Although the causes for the suicides last month of Dr. Lorna M. Breen, the medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, and John Mondello, a rookie New York emergency medical technician, are unknown, the tragedies served as a devastating wake-up call about the mental health of medical workers. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, their professions were pockmarked with burnout and even suicide…
“As the pandemic intensity seems to fade, so does the adrenaline. What’s left are the emotions of dealing with the trauma and stress of the many patients we cared for,” said Dr. Mark Rosenberg, the chairman of the emergency department at St. Joseph’s Health in Paterson, N.J. “There is a wave of depression, letdown, true PTSD and a feeling of not caring anymore that is coming.”