COVID-19 Causing PTSD in Doctors and Nurses | The Latest with Lee

published on July 2, 2020

definitely my predictions that a second

epidemic not to say pandemic is on the

way and this time between mental health

and people are starting to experience a

level of trauma that is very familiar to

many who have served in the military

having to face an invisible enemy having

to be hyper vigilance all the time it's

kind of like running a marathon except

you don't know how long the marathon is

I haven't really thought about the

long-term effects of it just because I'm

just trying to get through the here and

the now do you feel like any of the

preparation that you were really given

during residency prepared you for what

you were gonna end up going through

absolutely not

as Coe bid 19 continues to spread

throughout the United States

some frontline medical workers have

described conditions in their hospitals

as apocalyptic and as the nation

navigates its way through this pandemic

while watching its devastation on the

evening news the weight of that

devastation is heaviest on our frontline

workers causing some mental health

experts to believe that we are on the

brink of a mental health crisis in the

wake of what could be the worst pandemic

in American history on this episode of

the latest we explore the mental health

toll of the corona virus pandemic

I do believe very much in in resilience

when humans really facing extreme and

any adversities

however I think that the mental stress

of this outbreak is something that we

have not seen before and we see

something that we frankly are not

prepared to deal with my name is Eve

Allen area and I am director of the PTSD

program it says the New York State

secured Institute so what outcomes do

you expect to see among our essential

workers we will see PTSD we may see high

levels of anxiety that are not really

diminished over time but what you see

lately now after two months or so you

see more of a depressive symptoms which

are really worrisome people are there is

fatigue and we are already hearing about

suicide attempts and successful suicide

attempts including in the medical

community on Sunday April 20th dr

Lauren abrini an emergency room doctor

at New York Presbyterian Hospital

committed suicide

she even contracted colvett herself as

soon as she was better she went back to

work and the extensive media coverage of

this tragic event reminded us all of the

mental health challenges that our

frontline medical workers are facing I'm

crying at work you come home I'm crying

in the shower I wake up I got to go back

to work I'm crying

pouring my coffee so it's like just kind

of these you know emotions and and just

kind of laying around not wanting to do

anything it's kind of it just makes you

think like am I getting depressed that

what these are you know signs of my name

is Daisy fills ER I am a nurse and the

medical ICU unit in hospital here in the

Chicagoland area

we started transitioning into becoming

like a kovat unit I would say middle of

March and everything has been kind of

hectic since then who knows when we're

gonna even go back to our regular

medical ICU and just kind of see a

little bit of everything I know people

think of you know hospitals as places

where people very sick but people don't

actually die

that often you know it would honestly

maybe be three or four a week and that

went up to like twenty to thirty per day

which is just an insane insane number of

deaths the amount of coded patients that

have come in has definitely decreased

but when it was at its height people

would come in continuously through the

day on and on and on and it was non-stop

it was a daily nightmare those first few

days when things were absolutely chaotic

I would come home and I literally didn't

know how to transition it was like war

we're starting to see those on the front

lines of health care having some

predictable to me mental health outcomes

I'm dr Shawna Springer I'm known within

the military and veteran community as

doc Springer can you explain briefly

what PTSD is and how your previous work

and your expertise in PTSD has shaped

the way that you're viewing what we're

all kind of living through right now

PTSD is a prolonged shift in your

assumptions based on being exposed to

something that leaves you with a feeling

of helplessness or horror and changes

how your biology functions and you know

basically how you operate in

relationships and many of our er Docs

and nurses are wired like some of our

combat warfighters in the sense that

they can stay calm in a chaotic

situation because of their level of

training their skill and if you send

them into a situation that increases

their sense of helplessness and

maintains that sense of helplessness it

will have the kind of mental anguish

effect that we are seeing among those in

frontlines yes death is a part of our


however after so many patients dying and

after so many you know days in a row

it's kind of like it takes a toll on you

and I was remembering one shift I was

just super busy constantly on my feet

and it just kind of hit me and I just

became overwhelmed and I just started

to cry at work and my coworker said what

happened what's going on I'm like

nothing happened it's just you don't

really have time to think for yourself

and it kind of just debrief after

everything that's going on I remember I

would take the subway home I'd walk in

my door I'd see my couch and I would

just start bawling because I didn't know

how to process it and then I would sit

here and just stare at the floor and

those were the days when I would

FaceTime my friends and they would ask

me how I'm doing that I would just start

crying because you don't think about it

in the moment you don't think about the

fact that you just saw this old woman

who has had a beautiful vibrant life

lots of children lots of grandchildren

who just died in front of you and you

didn't have time to call their family

and there's no one there to call the

family so the days home were the hardest

part I would say actually you know we

all think of like parents supporting

their kids but it's only during this

pandemic that I realize how much they

were supporting me and that's the kind

of thing that is really hard not being

able to see your kids I mean that's I

didn't even realize how much of like an

emotional support they were to me and

how like not am you know has been really

hard and at like taking that emotional

support away has been really hard and I

just can't wait for that to that to come

back we're all so socialized to treat

people as though they're heroes when

they're on the frontlines and put this

invisible pressure on them to be strong

for us we stand back and we applaud them

and we say look at how resilient those

people are and what we don't understand

is just like with our warfighters

that is a way of telling people I need

you to be two-dimensional you can't be

fully human you have to do what I can't

do and you get my applause and I'll

thank you for your service but I'm not

going to show my support in the ways

that cost me something whenever people

are coming like oh you're you're a real

hero it makes me feel uncomfortable I

don't know

why one maybe because I'm not one to

really accept compliments it's one thing

to tell me I really appreciate what

you're doing but I feel like I did not

sign up to be working in these

conditions where we have a lack of PPE

murals don't work in these conditions

where are they they aren't optimal to do

their job there's a real problem in

medicine with kind of the macho culture

it's not it's not so much a macho

culture because there's more women in

medicine now than men but there's still

a culture of don't take care of yourself

take care of your patient and so I think

a lot of people are pushing things down

and you know honestly all of the

language about how we're heroes and

applause for us it kind of just

contributes to that in some way I mean

it's great it's beautiful but the

imagery of heroism lends itself to like

just you know going and taking care of

the patients and not thinking about

yourself we wake up we go to work we

save lives that's just what we do and

I'm honored by the hero title I don't I

have you know text from a bunch of

people from my past who have creeped up

during this time who are like thank you

so much for your service I'm thinking of

you and those things just you know bring

me the tears with joy it's like the most

insane feeling in the world and the

seven o'clock claps I mean they it's it

gives me chills every single day to hear

this when I'm going into nightshift I

literally walk through it and I hear

people clapping for me to go to work

which is insane like celebrities here

that like best about you know like right

and it feels really great but I don't

necessarily feel like a hero

any more than any other day

so what outcomes do you expect to see

among our essential workers not just

those medical doctors who are really

bearing the brunt of a lot of this work

but even you know our garbage men the

people who are driving our buses

absolutely I mean I agree with you I

think that it's a mistake to focus only

on the Medical Teams

there is so many workers and and public

officers that are really giving

everything that they have in order to

service so we definitely going to see

grief reactions or complicated with

reactions among people who lost loved

one in a very bizarre way the fact that

people are not able to come to say

goodbye to their loved ones is ICUs

before they pass a lot of the time say

it'll be a grandfather you know they

have the grandchildren and I mizune call

in like 20 other people on the zune call

you know saying goodbye and you have

these grandchildren like telling you

know grandpa wake up wake up

so it's like a job yeah it's something

that's definitely really hard and you

start to realize like the kind of person

that they were prior to being here and

you know it just kind of gives you a

whole new perspective I'm the patient

we've heard about burnout rates among

doctors right and it's something that

actually goes really underreported iíve

heard colleagues I'm not gonna name any

names obviously but I've heard

colleagues say hey you know I gotta get

out this is too much and that's a shame

and and it's actually really dangerous

because if that happens enough and it

happens soon more more patients are

gonna die so I really think we have to

find ways to take care of the health

care workers because this is not a time

for us to be losing doctors and nurses

right know is it realistic to think that

we as a country are prepared to deal

with the fallout of this pandemic from a

mental health perspective I don't think

we can do that without help of the

federal government really you know ones

that we really synchronize efforts


no VA Veterans Administration you know

Department to address this pandemic and

I would say millions of people in this

country will need a trained clinician

experts in trauma stress grief substance

abuse to address the mental health needs

I that smell is that millions of people

I'm speaking about millions millions of

new clients this is how you have to

start thinking about that and plan for

that looking back on it of course we're

gonna be traumatized from this of course

we are gonna have lasting impacts from

it I still see patients who are

incredibly sick from kovat and the pit

in my stomach pops up because I know

that that something really bad can

happen at any moment and I need to reach

out to the family and I need to do this

and all the new things I've learned and

am I gonna get it from being around them

am I gonna give it to my family members

is something course gonna happen and I

think about the sick patients at night

and that is a symptom of PTSD I wonder

if it will continue for a long time I

mean we don't even know when this is

gonna end I think just because I'm so

focused and what's going on right now

and how I'm feeling right now I haven't

really thought about long-term effects

I'm worried about you know coming in

contact with my dad with my aunt's my

uncles who are older and I just think

that people need to take this a lot more

seriously we all struggle with being

alone you know like we're quarantined

it's hard it's hard for everybody but

it's extra double hard when you're a

doctor working in a covert hospital like

guess who like nobody wants to take a

walk with me

nobody wants to be six feet apart in the

park nobody wants to do that with

doctors and nurses right and so please

be there for the doctors and nurses in

your life you know whatever they need

we'll give it to them because you know

it's it is hard and just little little

things matter so you know check in with

your doctor nurse friends that's all


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