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Emotional wounds linger for healthcare workers as COVID cases ease

Healthcare workers reflect on pandemic impact.
Published: Mar. 3, 2022 at 6:38 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - For the last two years, healthcare workers turned heroes to battle what was then considered the unknown of the coronavirus.

As COVID cases decline, frontline workers are still bearing emotional wounds from the height of the pandemic.

“COVID, by all means, has been a huge disruptor in the healthcare industry and I think everybody would agree that that’s mainly in the form of staffing,” Erin Keister, capital division nursing executive of HCA, said.

Burnout and uncertainty of the pandemic sent many nurses and doctors on a different path.

“Nurses who had been nurses their whole career - years upon years - and who just said, ‘this is what’s going to end this for me. This is the reason why I’m going to leave the profession,’” she said.

Keister served as the chief nursing officer at Chippenham Hospital before recently stepping into her current role, witnessing first-hand the burden COVID-19 had on frontline workers.

“In the beginning, it was around PPE and making sure we have enough people to take care of our patients, which always is ongoing, but then it turns into how we support emotionally,” Keister said.

Keister said now there’s a greater emphasis on emotional support for healthcare workers through access to counselors and assistance programs.

As COVID cases dwindle, there are growing concerns of patients avoiding care. Keister worries that this could lead to chronic health issues too late to treat.

“There’s been so much around the news that health care is bogged down and certainly overwhelmed with COVID. As we come out of that, and really even through COVID surges, we want people to know...community that needs healthcare to be able to seek health care,” Keister said.

Keister said Chippenham Hospital is no longer overwhelmed as it once was and, thankfully, is not experiencing staffing shortages.

The community, meanwhile, is encouraged not to delay treatment.

Copyright 2022 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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