The Trauma of Healthcare Workers
This year, healthcare workers are experiencing an unparalleled level of disease and death which has left its scars. Every place on my unit reminds me of an experience or story that I faced this past year. There are some places on the unit that I can’t even sit anymore. Flashbacks and nightmares are a constant. Insomnia has kicked in.
The trauma that healthcare workers deal with is also known as the second victim experience. This is the emotional aftershock of a traumatic patient event that stays with a person. This can lead to things like stress, anxiety, depression, helplessness, feelings of intense guilt and burn out. Some healthcare professionals have even committed suicide.
As healthcare workers we are trained to conceal how we feel and move on. A person can die in our hands and we’re supposed to move them off and get the next admission.
But at the end of the day we’re humans. Death, debility, and disease are traumatizing experiences for the patients and also for the people who have to care for them.
It’s important to talk about these things and acknowledge how we feel, whether it’s with one another or in the confidence of someone you trust.
No one has the power or should ever attempt to invalidate how you feel and what you’re experiencing, especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Know that your feelings are valid.
Know that your mental health matters.
Most importantly, know that you’re not alone.