| The Columbus Dispatch
COVID-19 takes toll on nurses months into pandemic
Months after the pandemic started overwhelming the U.S. well being care system, nurses at UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill are nonetheless working nonstop.
Erin Layton needs the general public may see what she sees when she goes to work every day.
“The sufferers we’re seeing now within the ICU are sicker than ever,” mentioned Layton, a registered nurse at OhioHealth Grant Medical Center. “It may be emotionally exhausting to present a lot to your sufferers and so they’re nonetheless dying at such a excessive charge.”
On a typical day Layton walks into the Downtown hospital, stops at her locker to seize her respirator and face defend, after which heads to the intensive care unit to care for among the region’s sickest COVID-19 patients.
As virus-related hospitalizations spike across Ohio, Layton has turn into one of many 1000’s of front-line health-care employees who witness extra ache and struggling as sufferers battle to breathe and combat for the lives. If the remainder of Ohio might be a fly on the wall when Layton makes her rounds, she mentioned, it could seemingly erase any doubts they’ve concerning the virus.
Many occasions, the immediate family members of COVID-19 patients within the ICU are in isolation themselves to stop the unfold of the illness. That usually means nurses equivalent to Layton are the single-person help system for sufferers they simply met.
Not solely are many nurses working extra extra time hours, they’re performing duties they would not usually do to maintain as few folks getting into a affected person’s room as doable.
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To reduce contact, OhioHealth has moved gear equivalent to intravenous (IV) pumps and dialysis machines into the hallway to be operated outdoors affected person rooms. Not all issues may be executed with out getting into a room although, Layton mentioned.
“We actually attempt to restrict the variety of sufferers getting into the COVID affected person rooms,” Layton mentioned. “Now we have needed to begin fulfilling roles that housekeeping normally does. We’re washing the ground and cleansing home windows and bathrooms along with our common work.”
The state of affairs is analogous at Mount Carmel St. Ann’s hospital in Westerville, mentioned Michael Good friend, an ICU nurse working in a COVID ward there.
As hospitalizations have climbed, nurses have taken on extra sufferers, Good friend mentioned. Sometimes, she’s serving to to look after at the least two to a few sufferers a shift.
This is because of a scarcity of employees members as health-care workers catch the virus. Officers at space hospitals have mentioned employees are contracting COVID-19 due to exposure in the community, not on the job. In complete, 25,581 health-care professionals have caught the virus all through the state, in response to the Ohio Division of Well being.
“There’s a number of occasions you possibly can go 12 hours with out even realizing you did not use the restroom,” Good friend mentioned. “You set (sufferers) first. When one among your sufferers begins crashing … you zone in on one among these sufferers.”
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The load of the pandemic and the additional work takes its toll mentally, each Good friend and Layton mentioned.
It is a difficulty that health-care suppliers have been coping with all through the primary eight months of the pandemic, mentioned Dr. Laurie Hommema, a household drugs doctor who has labored on the COVID entrance strains and leads OhioHealth’s resiliency program.
Dropping sufferers is tough, however the onslaught of latest sufferers is tough to take care of, too. Promising vaccines will not be right here in time to stop a winter surge and understanding hospitalizations will remain high for the foreseeable future is a troublesome realty to deal with, Hommema mentioned.
“What we’re actually broadly seeing proper now could be pure fatigue and exhaustion, each from a psychological and emotional standpoint,” Hommema mentioned. “It is exhausting as a result of it is longer than a marathon now and there is not a lightweight on the finish of the tunnel.”
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Generally, when Layton has had a tough week on the job, she goes house and simply wants a while to herself. Fortunately, her household appears to grasp that, she mentioned.
However it is not simply emotional trauma that Layton or Good friend take house with them.
Early on within the pandemic, health-care suppliers shared photos on social media displaying bruises on the bridge of their noses and uncooked pores and skin behind their ears from the tight-fitting N95 masks they’re required to put on. The marks began to seem partially as a result of health-care employees have been leaving their masks on all day as a result of a scarcity of non-public protecting gear.
Though the shortage of gear has improved and people photographs aren’t circulating on-line as a lot as they used to, the injuries stay and function a relentless reminder of Ohio’s ongoing virus surge.
“We have to keep vigilant,” Layton mentioned. “We nonetheless have sores on our noses we nonetheless have bruises on our faces. That is all nonetheless occurring. … We’re nonetheless right here. “