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Nurses Coping With COVID-19: Try To 'Celebrate The Wins'

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NICHOLAS BARTOS

Even before COVID-19, studies showed at least 30 percent of nurses will develop post-traumatic stress disorder sometime during their career. And there is no shortage of research on the high levels of depression and anxiety affecting nurses on the front lines of the pandemic.

AdventHealth is among the health systems trying to help nurses cope with the mental health effects of working with patients, families and doctors, not to mention the strain of coronavirus issues at home.

Linnette Johnson, senior vice president of nursing for AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division, says the company is using new strategies to help nurses who work on the COVID-19 unit cope with stress.

She says that includes offering frequent breaks, opportunities to talk to mental health professionals and time to get fresh air and exercise outdoors.

“And then one of the things that they love to do on huddle is celebrate the wins,” she says. “Because … it’s been heartbreaking and then it’s been heartwarming all wrapped into one. So celebrate who (patient) got to go home. Which one of our patients have done well.”

Johnson said other nurses have started to journal about their experiences and emotions.

She said health care professionals experience a sense of anxiety for their patients’ well-being, but also for their families who they could bring the virus home to.

In the first few months of the pandemic, she said most patients who came to the hospital were in critical condition. She said they used a lot of intensive care unit beds and ventilators.

Now, she said more patients are on medical-surgical units.

“Which means they need some oxygen support,” she says. “It certainly means that they need medications and treatments. But they actually are not having to be ventilated and spend 19 days in an ICU as opposed to when the disease first started.”

Johnson says they’ve learned to intervene early with aggressive treatment to improve patient outcomes.

She said the hospital system in Central Florida is currently treating some 270 patients for COVID-19.