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A look inside the mental health crisis facing health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic


by: Joy Ashford
Delaware News Journal
March 1, 2021

It's been nearly one year since Delaware saw its first case of COVID-19, a disease caused by a virus that has infected over 86,000 locally and killed more than 1,400 people here.

But no one has felt the effects of the virus more than Delaware's health care workers.

From intensive care unit nurses to surgeons to psychologists, Delaware health care workers have been forced to meet unprecedented demands on their physical, mental and emotional capacity.

They’ve not only dealt with the constant threat of infection at work but often have had to distance from their own spouses and children to keep them safe – all while becoming the sole source of comfort for dying patients who could no longer see their own families. 

The health care field has always been stressful, but experts fear COVID-19 has further exacerbated a profession and culture that has largely stigmatized reaching out or asking for help. 

One ChristianaCare ICU nurse explained through tears what it’s like to struggle with the stress of COVID-19 but hesitate to open up and ask for help.

“I want you to be able to look me in the eyes and trust me that I am going to put everything that I have into saving your family member’s life," Marykate McGuck said. “To admit that I need help, it’s admitting weakness. I don’t want a family member of a patient looking at me and [seeing] that.”

Pushed to their limits and struggling to reach out, Delaware’s health care workers are facing a looming mental health crisis. Without more support, many fear those training for this career – and even those already in critical care – may burn out and leave completely.

Thankfully, many Delaware hospitals have invested in initiatives to support their staff, from a bolstered Peer Support Team at Nemours to “wellbeing wagons” and proactive check-in systems at ChristianaCare. The chief wellness officers leading these initiatives have seen directly what health care workers are facing — and how to help.

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