Emotional Wounds Remain

 In Nurses Weekly

Interviews with doctors and nurses around the region revealed a sense of relief over a waning pandemic leavened by fears that the virus could surge again. They use different terms to describe what almost a year and a half of being on the front lines of treating COVID-19 has done. Moral injury. Trauma. Burnout. PTSD.

“I think it’s changed most of us forever or for a very long time,” said Carla LeCoin, a maternal-health nurse at Einstein Medical Center, “whether it’s how we practice, how we look at our upper management, how we look at the public, the government.”

In the rush to tackle a new and frightening virus, health care workers were buoyed by urgency and a sense of shared purpose. But it’s easing has left them with time to reflect on the death and sickness they witnessed, the anxieties of long hours and insufficient safety protections. Now they wonder whether COVID-19 is truly in retreat.

“If you’re living on that adrenaline rush for a while, and then that starts to go away, then the reality sinks in,” said Marc Moss, a doctor and researcher at the University of Colorado who studies mental health in health care workers. “You can overcome a lot of things in the heat of the moment but it’s still taking an emotional toll.”

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