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Fatigue on the Frontlines: Local healthcare workers explain pandemic’s toll on mental health

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fatigue on the frontlines

SAYRE, PA (WBNG) -- As the death toll from Covid-19 rises, healthcare workers are facing a different kind of battle.

Along with the long hours and extra shifts, the pandemic is taking a serious mental toll on doctors and nurses. According to a Mental Health America survey, 93% of health care workers are stressed, 86% experience anxiety and 76% report exhaustion and burnout.

"This is a once in a century phenomenon and we've risen to meet the challenge. This very well might be our finest hour," said Guthrie Chief of Emergency Medicine Dr. Jon Rittenberger.

It's a battle they've fought in New York and Pennsylvania since last March. Much of that time, risking their lives before vaccines were rolled out to healthcare workers.

"In the beginning we thought we might die," said Guthrie Nephrology Specialist Dr. Jagmeet Singh. "But you know somebody had to do the job. We did it."

Guthrie Nurse Michele McKernan said the hardest part was losing her father to Covid while she was working on the frontlines.

"I lost a family member myself through this Covid pandemic and it was difficult to not be able to be there and be expected to take care of strangers on a daily basis, but not able to be there for my family was a very challenging thing for me to get over," she explained.

These healthcare workers explained that seeing people rapidly decline and lose their fight with Covid doesn't get easier.

"Anything happens one or two months you can handle it, but when it starts stretching out stretching out stretching out there's a Covid fatigue also in physicians which is happening," Dr. Singh explained.

Guthrie doctors and nurses are offered mental health services if needed, and the frontline workers say the support extends far beyond that.

"One of the silver linings was we all know that were here for each other," said Dr. Singh.

Dr. Rittenberger, Dr. Singh and McKernan all say they've been vaccinated, which has offered a sense of relief for them while at work.

Chloe Vincente

Chloe Vincente is an Evening News Anchor at 12 News.

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