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COVID Battle Fatigue

Health workers fight burnout in new virus surge
Posted at 7:20 PM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-24 22:20:03-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The fast spreading Delta version of COVID accounts for 87% of cases in Pima County---it’s driving more hospital cases---and driving away health workers discouraged and burned out by the new virus surge. KGUN9 On Your Side talked with Pima County’s Health Director---and the Chief Nurse at Tucson Medical Center.

Pima Health Director Doctor Theresa Cullen says COVID cases are rising in schools with about 950 students and staff infected, and enough exposures to drive four thousand into quarantine.

“People thought it was gonna get better. I'm sure all of you thought it was going to get better and we wouldn't be doing press conferences on COVID. That's what I was hoping for, and instead we're back here.”

Losing ground after fighting so hard against COVID has infected some front line health workers with compassion fatigue--they’re having trouble forcing themselves to keep fighting when the fight never seems to end.

Joy Upshaw is the Chief Nursing Officer for Tucson Medical Center. She says, “We have a unit full now, and they remember what it was like to look through the list and determine who might make it today and who might not and that's a hard factor for a nurse to go through.”

She says she’s down 150 nurses. Some feel an extra frustration that almost all of their serious COVID cases are patients who did not get the vaccine.

“This is preventable now. And so it's even harder on those nurses and providers, as they're caring, knowing that we don't have to be where we're at today.”

Upshaw says TMC is also filling up with non-COVID patients who put off treatment until they became critically ill ---- in some cases because they feared exposure to COVID or they did not want to add to the strain on the healthcare system.

Joy Upshaw hopes people recognize as health workers fight to save lives they’re fighting to keep the energy and drive to stay in the battle.

“We talk about healthcare as heroes through this. And what we have to remember is, we're humans just like everybody else. And we're living through this and it's a never ending story for us right now.”