MAGIC VALLEY — Idaho activated crisis standards of care in September due to a surge in COVID-19 patients needing hospitalization, and healthcare workers have felt the burden of the pandemic.
Mental Health America, a nonprofit organization, surveyed more than 1,000 healthcare workers throughout the nation and found 93% of healthcare workers reported experiencing stress, 86% reported experiencing anxiety, and 76% reported experiencing exhaustion and burnout.
“It’s just tough when you feel somewhat overwhelmed. Perhaps the community is not supporting you, that you are maybe alone in it," said Dr. Steven Kohtz, a family physician with St. Luke's.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Kohtz has helped COVID-19 patients daily. Apart from the long hours and extra amount of work, he said the hardest part has been compassion fatigue.
“I didn’t believe that was a real thing until I was working in our quick care one night at 8:30 at night when I would rather have been home and usually would be home with my family and I was admitting patients with COVID and it at one point was pretty tough," Kohtz said.
Although it was long hours away from his family, Kohtz knew it was his job to care for his patients.
"It was hard not to blame that person that was coming in with COVID and needing to be hospitalized, but the way you counteract that is I don’t blame my patients who smoke their whole lives and get lung cancer. I take care of them,” Kohtz said.
On top of the surge in COVID-19 patients and having to work longer hours, one thing that has also impacted healthcare workers is community members not believing in the virus.
“We went into healthcare, most of us, to keep people healthy. We have dedicated our lives to helping people live their best lives. It is hard on the ego to have people not believe you when that has been what I have been trained to do, and I went to over 20 years of schooling to be able to do this,” Kohtz said.
After Crisis Standards of Care were activated in Idaho, Magellan Health created a free 24-hour crisis hotline for healthcare workers and first responders in Idaho.
“Healthcare workers have been tremendously stressed it’s been a time of great burnout for healthcare workers, not only from the illness itself but from all the controversy that has swirled around the illness and the responses to the illness. And healthcare workers have been put many times in the crosshairs, so it’s been a tremendously stressful time," Steven Pratt, with Magellan Health, said.
St. Luke's health officials say community members can help healthcare workers by getting vaccinated and following safety protocols.
“We truly love our community. We are here for them and no matter what the reason is, if they are sick we are here to take care of them," Kohtz said.