With no relief seen on the horizon, caregivers are stressed to the maximum under the onslaught of COVID cases, an intensive care nurse told The Rotary Club of McMinnville on Thursday.
Melanie King, RN, who’s worked in ICU and emergency room settings for nine years, told Rotarians she and her co-workers struggle to bear up under the double burdens of emotional strain and physical exhaustion.
“Why are we so exhausted?’ she asked rhetorically as she stepped to the podium in the fellowship hall of Central Church of Christ.
It’s not only the constant stream of new COVID patients arriving at the hospital doors, but indifference from a certain segment of the community that denies or minimizes the deadly threat of the virus.
“The public’s response to COVID affects us,” said King, who expects to earn her doctorate in nursing practice at the University of Tennessee next spring.
A Warren County resident, she did not want to identify the hospital where she works because she didn’t want her comments to be taken to represent any official position from her employer. King presently serves as vice president for District 8 of the Tennessee Nurses Association.
“Walking through the ICU will break your heart,” King told Rotarians and their guests.
Guests included six students from Warren County High School’s health sciences and nursing practice program.
The presence of family and loved ones is known to have a positive effect on patients in extreme circumstances, King said in a later interview recording for public radio WCPI 91.3 FM.
But that normal contact—face to face and hand to hand—has been one of the cruel casualties of COVID-19, she stressed.
“Patients may be in the ICU three weeks without ever touching anyone. Nurses and staff may have contact with them, but it’s only through surgical gloves.”
At best, loved ones may be able see each other through a glass window.
Often, communication is through a cellphone, King related.
Among the most difficult moments for caregivers comes when a patient needs to be transported to a hospital capable of a higher level of intensive care.
“We put you on a list to get to another hospital but some will die before they get there,” the speaker lamented. Across Tennessee and much of the rest of the nation, hospitals are filled to their limit with COVID patients, along with those who need treatment for many of the usual diseases and accidents.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier this month released the findings of a two massive studies comparing medical outcomes for vaccinated versus unvaccinated Americans. The research showed unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID and 11 times more likely to die from organ damage caused by coronavirus.
The 25-minute interview with King airs on WCPI 91.3 this Tuesday at 5 p.m., with repeats Wednesday at 5 a.m., Thursday at 1 p.m., and Friday at 1 a.m.