Healthcare workers on the front lines of COVID-19 pandemic may be dealing with PTSD in the future

In this April 2, 2020 photo, a nurse at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle holds a medical...
In this April 2, 2020 photo, a nurse at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle holds a medical face shield prior to the start of her shift in a triage tent outside the Harborview emergency department used to intake arriving patients who have respiratory symptoms. The face shield was 3-D printed and assembled by a member of a network of volunteers using a design approved and hosted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.(Ted S. Warren | AP)
Updated: Apr. 7, 2020 at 4:38 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - The reality of what’s happening can sometimes be overwhelming for the nurses and doctors on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis.

“It’s extremely stressful because they are super sick,” says a nurse.

The Tulane Hospital ICU nurse, who doesn’t want to be identified, says it’s the hardest things she’s ever had to do.

“All of us, we are just spent,” says the nurse.

“I think it’s important to know that there are going to be short term effects and long term effects,” says Eric Golnick.

Eric Golnick is the CEO of Veterans and First Responders Healthcare, a national organization that provides treatment for PTSD to veterans and first responders. Golnick says in the short term, healthcare workers are dealing with a wide range of emotions.

“It’s exhaustion. It’s anxiety. It is a fear that unlike dealing with deployment, people are worried they will bring this enemy home,” says Golnick.

On top of the fear of contracting the virus, nurses and doctors are dealing with more end of life situations than normal.

“You’re there as a helper. That is your job. You’re there to protect people and as a healthcare provider to be there to assist and to save lives. And when you can’t do that, you can’t comfort the families. You lose that closure that you would get with the family being there,” says Golnick.

“We’ve had 27 and 98-year-olds. I mean they’re on ventilators. They are fighting for their lives and they’re alone. There are no visitors allowed. They are alone. The only human contact they have are us,” says the nurse.

“So there’s that fear, the guilt and anxiety that can lead to longer term post traumatic stress or post traumatic stress disorder,” says Golnick.

Golnick says healthcare workers need to take care of themselves while they take care of someone else. He suggests meditating or decompressing for about 15 minutes a day before a shift. He says in the long term, many will need therapy.

“A lot of us, as a veteran and first responder, we’re stubborn and we think we’re the helpers and we don’t need help, but we do. It’s not sustainable to continue doing it, so if you need help, reach out. There are resources out there,” says Golnick.

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