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Front-line health care workers face threat of PTSD

COVID-19 'exhausting' to many South Florida health care professionals
Posted at 7:49 PM, Dec 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-18 19:51:06-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Daniella Russ is a super mom for her three babies at home. She's still a hero at work, but she wears a different cape.

"We're running out of beds, slowly but surely, and we're holding patients more in the ER," Russ said.

Russ is an emergency room nurse. Like her fellow front-line health care workers, she's also human.

"Sometimes it's not a matter of, 'How was your day?'" Russ said. "It's just a matter of, 'Tell me about your day,' so that we are able to get all of that out so that it's not building in."

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a reality for many on the front lines, and it can affect even the most experienced professionals, like infectious disease specialist Dr. Leslie Diaz.

"It's very difficult to see the fear in these patients' eyes when I go into the ICU and they ask me, 'Am I going to die?'" Diaz said. "That's a very hard question -- very loaded question -- to answer."

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For Russ, the hardest moments have been right before intubating a patient.

"We're the last thing that they see, and that's kind of hard to be the last person that is being seen," she said.

Dr. Amanda Darling, a psychiatrist, said these experiences can have a long-term effect.

"It may not necessarily just be sadness, but the people who know you may notice that you're not quite the same," she said.

Diaz said the 14-hour-long days for several months now are taking a toll.

"It is exhausting," Diaz said. "I am very tired. I'm not going to lie to you."

Her advice is to find an outlet to destress that works for you.

"Speak out," Diaz said. "I know a lot of people, especially males, sometimes, have a little difficulty expressing their feelings and they may be a little bit more stoic than females."

Russ said many of her colleagues "have talked about seeking counseling, because we just need that listening ear."