‘Invisible Wounds’: Frontline health workers may face recovery periods that may last several months

Dr. Molly Hayes says she doesn’t feel tired.

“Honestly, I don’t feel physically tired, but it just feels like going down one,” he said.

As director of the medical intensive care unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Hayes worked non-stop around the time of the COVID-19 outbreak. Now, he says, he’s not frustrated, but “it feels weird. For three months we can go about 24 hours on all systems. And then it seemed like one day you woke up and there was no text. And you haven’t heard from anyone. “

However, the number of new coronavirus cases in Massachusetts continues to decline, The unit now has plenty to do to get back to normal and find the lessons taught. Employees who have worked long hours at the top of the company are taking time to rest, Hayes said, “so they are now at home with their families, and working on recharging and refreshing and then they’ll be ready to oversee the fall. “

At the very least, this is the goal: to recover enough to face the virus again if necessary.

When they have time to reflect on the evidence and experience, it will probably affect them the most.

Brigadier General (Retd.) Jack Hammond

Retired Brigadier General Jack Hammond sees a parallel between the COVID-19 front line and military installations at hospitals.

“It’s no different – when you see thousands of people die in a very rough way, in a very chaotic environment, and then all of a sudden it ends,” he said.

Hammond led the military in Iraq and Afghanistan. He now leads the Home Base, a Massachusetts General Hospital program that treats seniors experienced with brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, and he has overseen the prospect of a thousand-bed project, A A temporary field hospital was set up in Boston to serve coronavirus patients at the height of the outbreak. Adrenaline is now gone for frontline workers, he says.

“And so when they have time to reflect on certain aspects of the testimony and experience it will probably have the greatest impact on them,” he said. “Because in the heat of the moment they can scream quickly in the bathroom and then they come back to the floor to help someone else.”

He says these workers, like many veterans, can be left with invisible wounds.

“We now have wounded healthcare fighters who are coming who will need the same kind of care,” he says. “It’s all subsequent traumatic stress disorder, not that level but post trauma stress.”

He says healthcare companies are critical of providing assistance – and agree to seek help for staff. Everyone at the local hospital has a staff support program, but “like our soldiers, people are getting the opportunity to participate in the challenge,” he said.

Hammond hopes some frontline workers will be overwhelmed with anxiety and frustration. Pamela Peck, director of the Clinical Health Service at Beth Israel Dickens, said some people may experience sleep deprivation and a feeling of tightness, joy or lack or frustration.

“Other people may suffer from isolation or numbness, feeling isolated,” he said. “We often suffer from severe stress.”

Other possible symptoms include substance use problems, personal conflicts and annoyance. “And these will become more prevalent after the ceremony, in the next three months, I imagine,” he says. “We’re keeping an eye on it.”

Communities and individuals need to gather emotionally around the recognition of how difficult it has become.

Pamela Peck Dr.

He and others say self-care can help – sleep and exercise, good nutrition and time with loved ones – and so can provide communal support for acknowledging the devastation caused by the epidemic.

“Will we recover our next piece to be ready for life? I think a lot of people will do that, “Peck said.” But I also think that communities and individuals need to get emotionally involved in recognizing how hard it has become. “

How tough it is going to be as the post-surge-epidemic lasts so long. There are no hard and fast rules about how long it will take health care workers – and regular people – to feel more normal and less tired. It depends on multiple factors such as your personal history and the severity of the stress you went through and the baseline level of the stress you started.

The National Academy of Medicine estimated three years ago that about half of physicians suffered from burning symptoms, including fatigue. And it’s not just doctors.

Dr. Darshan Mehta, medical director of the Benson-Henry Institute of Mind Body Medicine, says, “For example, one-fourth of ICU nurses have consistent symptoms with clinical diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. He said the epidemic must have caused much more damage than the previous level.

Mehta uses a personal rule for how long it takes to recover: “If you work for about four weeks, it will take many months to recover. There is no evidence to support this, but I think we have to be very patient.” Needed. “

General Hammond, from Home Base, said active-duty soldiers are usually on leave – a full 30-day leave when they return from a duty tour. But members of the National Guard and Army Reserve often had to sink right into the jobs and lives they had lagged behind – and the lack of breaks could now be an additional challenge for many healthcare workers, including some 700 who worked in Boston Hope, he said. .

Boston hospitals are actively planning for possible new openings in the fall or winter. Dr. Molly Hayes of Beth Israel Dickness said the preparation seemed different from before this first wave.

“I had at least some glimpses, like‘ maybe we’re not going to go this way, maybe we don’t have to be motivated. We have to plan, but it probably won’t happen, “he said. “I do not think so. I thought we would go there. This is going to happen. “

And no matter if he and his ICU colleagues take a complete rest, they will be ready.

Beth Israel developed a self-care aid at Lahe Health. (Politeness)

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