As the pandemic rages, demoralization deflates health care workers

Health care workers are losing compassion for the general public.

As a psychiatrist, I must care for my patients in order to engage with them and not avoid their emotional turmoil. I must rein in any apathy I feel so I can do my job: to listen for meaning, validate, and avoid judgment. But that is hard when there are indoor weddings and soccer tournaments with 500 teams occurring as Covid-19 once again surges across the U.S.

I’m tired of this pandemic. Fatigued from trying to decipher my patients’ tears through screens. Burned out from witnessing how much of life is going un-lived: deferred playdates, empty college dorms, canceled family reunions, parents and grandparents alone on holidays. And stressed from working a full-time job and homeschooling my two kids under 5.

But it isn’t just the constancy of Covid-19 that causes distress. It’s also the breakdown of social values that weighs me down.

I spoke with a colleague of mine, James Griffith, chair of psychiatry at George Washington University, who designed a curriculum to combat demoralization. He told me how pervasive demoralization is and yet how widely ignored it is as a concept in our society.