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Nurses describe mental toll of caring for COVID-19 patients

Published: Feb. 9, 2021 at 2:40 PM CST
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BROOKHAVEN, Miss. (WLBT) - Staff members in Mississippi hospitals are drained. COVID-19 has changed what their day-to-day looks and feels like.

Even with nearly a year of caring for COVID patients, it’s still tough for King’s Daughter’s Medical Center registered nurse Colby Kent to find the words to describe its impact on him.

“I haven’t seen as much loss of life in my six years here until this past year, mainly because of COVID,” said registered nurse Colby Kent. “And it’s been very difficult to watch. I’m still trying to figure out how to navigate and cope with those emotions.”

Brookhaven is a tight-knit community, further complicating the dynamics for nurses like Colby Kent.

“You walk in and it’s somebody you’ve known all your life and it’s somebody that’s never been sick and just trying to help them deal with it,” he explained.

KDMC ICU nurse Anna Lawrence says they are pouring everything physically and mentally into the patients who are often in their care for weeks at a time.

“I’ve lost several patients along the course of my career,” described Lawrence. “And to know that I’m their nurse and I’m that person at the bedside with them as they’re passing or the one with them through this critical time....that’s the hard part.”

She describes their role as a bridge between being everything they need from health care to a surrogate family member.

“We’ve done FaceTime,” she said about working in the ICU. “For the patients that can’t, they don’t have the capabilities to FaceTime, they’ll ask us, ‘Will you please tell my loved one this?’ And so we take down notes and we go to the bedside and we get down in the patient’s ear. And we’ll say Mr. so and so your wife called and this is what she wants you to know. Or we’ll hold a phone up for those that just need to talk to the patient in their ear. There’s obviously not a lot of communication back but just for them to be able to see their loved one.”

Both of those nurses say exercise has been one of their escapes as they continue to try and figure out how to cope with the stress of COVID care.

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