'We are talking more about mental health': Health care workers feeling the pandemic's toll

As the pandemic wears on and more hospital workers leave the workforce, doctors say they're frustrated. But they also say the pandemic has reinforced the importance of mental health care.


Inside the places where health is always top of mind, doctors, nurses and other hospital workers are learning to take care of not only their patients, but one another.

"Overall, morale is a bit low, I would say," said Dr. Daniel Jones, a critical care physician at Nebraska Med. "I've noticed that colleagues are encouraging each other a lot more to just talk about how they're feeling."

According to Mental Health America, 76% of health care workers feel burnt out because of the pandemic.

"That's frustrating to know that this level of illness was preventable, and yet, it wasn't prevented," Dr. Johnson said.

About 40% said they don't have the emotional support they need.

"We know that not having social support is as bad for your health as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day," said Dr. David Cates, director of Behavioral Health for Nebraska Med. "I still think there are more people who need help than are reaching out for it."

As the delta variant grips Nebraska, Cates fears support for health care workers has slipped away.

"If people can find a way to recognize and show appreciation to health care workers, I know they would appreciate that," Cates said.

Dr. Johnson looks forward to the day when the hospital can resume elective surgeries. Although they’re called "elective," he said they can greatly improve a patient’s quality of life.

"When we have to put those things on hold, which we do because we don't have enough beds, that's really frustrating for health care workers as well," Johnson said.

While the pandemic can't end soon enough, Cates hopes the emphasis on mental health in health care is here to stay.

"Fortunately, one silver lining is we are talking more about mental health," Cates said.

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