Health Care Workers Ask Therapist: ‘Why Aren’t More People Taking This Seriously?’

A healthcare worker prepares to screen individuals for the coronavirus at a testing website in Landover, Md., in March.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A healthcare worker prepares to screen people for the coronavirus at a screening site in Landover, Md., in March.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Thats what Kimberly Johnson, a therapist in Long Beach, N.Y., has seen among health care workers shes talked to.

” In the beginning, a lot of them were in that high-stress, high-response mode. And during that time, they may not be as active and processing whats going on or what theyve been through,” Johnson informs All Things Considered.

New cases of coronavirus in the U.S. are climbing up, and may strike peaks equaling the summer season surge. Cases are blowing up in the upper Midwest and around the Great Lakes, with extensive care systems approaching capacity and field healthcare facilities being established for overflow patients.

Here are excerpts from the interview.

Throughout the pandemic, these grueling experiences have actually taken a heavy psychological toll on healthcare employees– one that in some cases emerges after the storm has actually passed.

Healthcare employees in the Midwest now deal with some of the very same nightmarish scenarios that their colleagues in New York City saw this spring.

Johnson volunteers with the Emotional PPE Project, a network of more than 450 therapists in all 50 states and the District of Columbia who provide free services to health care employees who have been affected by the pandemic.

Inform me what youre hearing [from your customers]

That and then likewise the concern of, what might I be bringing house? How do I tidy up, how do I come back into my family and not put my experiences back into their environment and still make home a safe location?

I hear a lot from those that reach out. A lot of retelling of the stories of sitting with people as they passed and doing the FaceTime messages with family. And truly feeling sorrow and still processing the sorrow of those losses and the numerous losses at one time. And the issues with trying to balance what they went through there with their own member of the family getting ill and entering into the health center. Handling– how do you respond to a loved one, you know, going onto a ventilator when you cant even be there yourself to be encouraging of them?

Do people inform you that theyre burned out or are thinking of leaving the occupation?

You understand, I havent heard that. Burnout is something that we will typically see in people that have gone through this extended traumatic experience. I dont hear people talking about leaving. The people that concern me are not necessarily talking about, “I want out.”

Its, “Is what Im experiencing normal? Its really individuals looking at, how can I continue to do the work Im doing the quality and doing of work Im doing with this scenario as it is.

How do you address the “is what Im experiencing regular” concern when nothing about this pandemic is at all typical?

So we can speak to how what theyre feeling is something we might anticipate to see among individuals that have actually handled these severe tension occasions and after that speak about various methods that they can self-care through that.

Oh, the pandemic itself isnt normal, but the human reaction of these medical employees, I believe, is really regular. When we looked back at how people reacted to other extreme events, say, like 9/11 or perhaps Superstorm Sandy, when it hit in this location, a lot of the exact same symptomology emerges. Problem sleeping, issues with consuming, issues with, you understand, ruminations about what occurred, problems with frustration and anger, depression. Its a great deal of resemblance there.

Exists anything youve heard from a client that you wish the public would be aware of?

Actually, thats one of the first things that comes up typically is, “Why arent more people taking this seriously? I cant state thats an ubiquitous idea, however it is certainly something that my clients have actually shared: Dont take this gently.

A lot of retelling of the stories of sitting with people as they passed and doing the FaceTime messages with family. Burnout is something that we will often see in people that have gone through this extended distressing experience. I dont hear people talking about leaving. When we looked back at how people responded to other extreme events, say, like 9/11 or even Superstorm Sandy, when it struck in this area, a lot of the exact same symptomology emerges. Actually, thats one of the first things that comes up frequently is, “Why arent more individuals taking this seriously?

Connor Donevan and Patrick Jarenwattananon produced and modified the audio interview.