Help for the Helpers: In the Aftermath of COVID-19, Medical Personnel Find Themselves in Need of Healing

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Nurse Bill Engle, at St. Mary’s Medical Center, Langhorne
Image via Monica Herndon at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

For Bill Engle, a nurse at St. Mary’s Medical Center, Langhorne, COVID-19 meant daily grief, stress, and burnout. The resulting emotional burden, shared by many healthcare professionals, was tallied by Jason Laughlin at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Every day going into work and knowing I was going to be in that N95 and seeing these people struggle and how scared they were and the physical toll that they took…” Engle said. “It was next level.”

Engle was confident he could meet his patients’ physical needs. He struggled with the impact of the ancillary roles he found himself filling.

Serving as a proxy for families quarantined away from sick relatives was one of the toughest.

One patient, 58 years old, was on a ventilator. Because his wife also had a coronavirus infection, she could stay with him.

But no one else. Except Engle.

Together, they kept vigil until the last life-sustaining piece of equipment was turned off.

After the patient passed, Engle and the wife “just sat there; she just talked about him.”

Even recalling the event yields tears.

Doctors and nurses like Engle now speak of the outbreak in terms indicative of their front-line service: burnout, moral injury, PTSD.

A trauma surgeon from Jefferson University Hospital put the issue in stark terms. “This is going to affect people for quite some time, almost along the lines of a 9/11,” he said.

More on the emotional impact of the pandemic on healthcare workers is at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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