The Toll on First Responders

Francisca Aravena

Health care workers are facing a high mental toll with the coronavirus pandemic.

On March 23 the medical journal JAMA surveyed healthcare workers in China that were in charge of Covid-19 patients and reported that over 71.54% reported distress according to Time Magazine.

Increase worry for health care workers rises after a second front line worker died by suicide in New York this past week, reported by Business Insider.

“Medical workers today are battling an invisible enemy that’s also upended their lives and forced them to step away from their own support systems,” said licensed psychologist Dr. Shauan Springer according to the Business Insider. 

The new term “second victims” is now being used to refer to the trauma health care workers around the globe are experiencing being at the front lines of this pandemic, according to Curtis Reisinger, a clinical psychologist and the director of the Employee Assistance Program at Northwell Health in New York, in an interview with CNN.

“Moral injury” is caused, “If healthcare workers can’t provide the care they typically believe is medically necessary for their patients.” It can lead to a faster burnout, said Dr. Wendy Dean, a psychiatrist and the cofounder of the nonprofit Fix Moral Injury, in an interview for Time Magazine, 

According to an interview with local New York medical workers done by Time Magazine, “They’re afraid of spreading the disease to their families, frustrated about a lack of adequate protective gear and a sense they can’t do enough for their patients.”

The lack of PPE, or personal protective equipment has led to frustration for all healthcare workers, many of whom, “…Are told to reuse surgical masks and gowns multiple times,” and potentially face disciplinary action for not wearing their own from fear of bringing the virus home, said MPR.

The lack of protective gear is also worrying to EMT workers as they face, “The daily number of 911 calls in New York City skyrocket[ing], increasing by as much as 50% above the usual call volume,” said the NYC fire department by Frank Dwyer to NPR. 

 According to the Washington Post the lack of hazard pay is also becoming an increasing issue as 45 nurses in the United States have died from Covid related issues.

“Instead of hiking salaries for medical workers, numerous hospitals across the country have slashed pay for nurses and doctors, as the suspension of elective surgeries drains healthcare companies of a vital course of revenue,” said Washington Post, ranking Minnesota as one of the states with the biggest salary cut. 

The Washington Post reported that the labor department said, “Up to 13 million health workers and other emergency and other emergency responders won’t get two weeks of emergency sick pay because of the way Congress wrote the law.”