Front-line fatigue: ICU nurses taking brutal blows to their mental health

Robin Grigg, clinical nurse coordinator at the Utah Diabetes and Endocrinology Center at the University of Utah.

Robin Grigg, clinical nurse coordinator at the Utah Diabetes and Endocrinology Center at the University of Utah, poses for a photo outside of the center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. Grigg worked in the intensive care unit at the U. during the COVID-19 pandemic. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Robin Grigg’s patient, struggling to breathe, looked at her and asked what was wrong with him. She showed him his positive COVID-19 test results, knowing it was not the first time he had seen them.

“No,” he said. “COVID’s not real. I don’t have COVID.”

He wouldn’t budge. Eventually, they just decided not to talk about it, and she continued to provide life-saving medical care for someone who didn’t believe his condition was real. She couldn’t bring herself to find out what happened to him because it was just too hard.

“Imagine not being able to breathe and still not believing it’s real,” said the former intensive care unit nurse at University of Utah Health in Salt Lake City.

“They will have disregarded medical advice and gotten COVID at a party. It makes it nearly impossible to have empathy for them. They’ll be on like eight infusions, their toes are turning black, tubes are everywhere, teeth have been knocked out from intubation, they’ll be puffy and swollen and bruised, and they still won’t believe it.”

Grigg comes from a family of health care professionals and she always wanted to work in health care. She felt like she was born to do it. But now she’s afraid to tell people she’s a nurse because of the backlash that frequently comes with it because of politics.

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During the holidays last year, she deleted all her social media because it was too hard on her mental health to see people disregarding public health recommendations when she and her fellow health care workers were pulling out all the stops to try to keep people alive.

“I couldn’t see people doing whatever they want when I felt like my sanity was hanging by a thread,” she said.

She was already seeing a therapist, but the stress was enough that she started taking prescribed anti-anxiety medication. When even that wasn’t enough to keep her mentally healthy, she decided she had to step away from working in the ICU in January. Now she works as a nurse at the Utah Diabetes and Endocrinology Center, where she doesn’t treat critical COVID-19 patients.

I’m constantly on edge, and there’s complete sadness all the time at the most minuscule things. — ICU nurse Kirsten Roberts Pusey

Health care providers worldwide are facing similar positions of complete and utter burnout to the point of mental illness. ICU nurses in particular are leaving at unprecedented rates after being traumatized by being constantly surrounded by horrific deaths because of COVID-19.

Liz Close, executive director of the Utah Nurses Association, said there are four aspects of pandemic care that are affecting Utah nurses’ mental health:

Having to take care of patients with a disease that’s largely preventable “indicates a public disrespect for their …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News


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