healthcare workers

Healthcare Workers ‘Overwhelmed' as COVID Cases Surge

"It's tough. It's taxing, but we work as a team," said Taylor Henderson, a critical care nurse who has treated COVID patients for the entire pandemic.

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Frontline workers say they are exhausted and overwhelmed as COVID-19 cases surge in Connecticut again.

"It's tough. It's taxing, but we work as a team," said Taylor Henderson, a critical care nurse at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital in New London.

Statewide, there are about 1,100 people hospitalized with COVID-19 right now. The majority of those patients, about 70%, are not fully vaccinated.

It's a similar story at L+M hospital. They have about 40 COVID patients in the hospital right now, the highest number of COVID patients they have seen since the beginning of the year. The majority of the patients are unvaccinated as well.

"There are a few folks that got one shot and then there are a few of our immunocompromised people who did not get boosted who are also sick," said Dr. Craig Mittleman, regional medical director of emergency services at L+M. “People who are hospitalized right now are quite ill.”

Shannon Christian oversees nursing at the hospital. She said the entire team is exhausted.

"Not only is the team impacted by the community COVID that we are seeing, but the teams are impacted by getting COVID themselves. Some are getting sick during this time," said Christian.

With the current surge, Christian said her biggest concern is how cases are impacting her teams.

“Some days are harder than others. Sometimes the feeling that’s there with the staffing challenges and the acuity that the staff is seeing increases that anxiety around everything that is happening," said Christian. "But we are a team. We come together, we work together, we are here for the patients. That doesn't go away."

Citing a nationwide labor shortage, the hospital said they are having difficulty hiring. They have open positions.

"We absolutely have vacancies and we have people who are out because of illness so it’s a combination," said Mittleman.

Christian said she is always worried about staffing.

“Are teams going to get sick and are we going to have enough staff here to care for our patients day in and day out? That’s my worry," said Christian.

Natalie Dyer works in the emergency department and has been caring for COVID patients for nearly two years now.

“Overwhelmed. I feel like most days are good with our staff. We really do come together," said Dyer. “Some days it does get a little hairy with the volume of patients coming in, but we always make sure they are safe and taken care of to the best of our abilities.”

Henderson, the critical care nurse who has also worked the entire pandemic, said she does feel more prepared with this surge.

"We know the protocols, we know what to do next in certain situations, but the patients are just as sick," said Henderson. "They can’t be with their family so we are there with them and they are just doing so unwell. It is tough on us mentally.”

The team of nurses said during this surge, they have noticed that people in their community are more complacent and not wearing masks as often.

“I think we all need to think about each other. And be supportive of each other. And one way of doing that is if people in the community do their part as we are trying to do our part," said Dyer.

They hope people will do everything they can to stop the spread of the virus.

“I think this is a good time to maybe preach the importance of vaccinations. And if you haven’t been vaccinated yet, get your vaccine. Get your booster shot. It’s time for that. It’s only going to help," said Henderson.

As the hospital team continues to respond to the COVID surge and treat other illnesses, they ask that people do not show up to the emergency department asking for a routine COVID test.

"We have very, very sick COVID patients, we have heart attacks. What we are seeing is probably the community's desperation to get tested," said Mittleman. "We are not in a capacity or in a place right now to be able to provide that service in a timely fashion."

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