Expert advises getting help for healthcare workers facing stress and trauma

New Haven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The doctors and nurses in our hospitals have been under incredible pressure for weeks now, seeing patient after patient dying in front of them. It’s like witnessing a terrible tragedy, but then coming right back and witnessing it again the next day.

After an awful tragedy like the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, first responders get professional help to deal with the trauma. Frontline workers in Connecticut have now had to deal with more than 2,000 coronavirus deaths.

“People in our medical profession are with those individuals,” said Gary MacNamara, who is currently the Director of Public Safety at Sacred Heart University. “They’re experiencing it day to day, so they already have a step against them.”

MacNamara spent years as the Fairfield Police Chief before moving to Sacred Heart, and knows about stress and trauma.

“We have to get them to understand at the end of the shift they need to talk about their feelings,” MacNamara said. “They needed to understand that what they are feeling is normal.”

Just this week, a respected emergency room doctor in New York named Dr. Lorna Breen took her own life after weeks of dealing with coronavirus patients and then getting it herself. MacNamara says hospital administrators need to insist on counseling.

“Otherwise, we’re going to see more and more in our medical profession seeking other ways to cope,” said MacNamara. “Tragically suicide, addictions, there are a lot of things that can come out of these emotions and we want to make sure we can get a handle on them.”

MacNamara calls that the “third wave” of victims and says doctors and nurses, like police officers, might think they don’t need assistance.

“In a profession where people are helping others, it’s difficult to say I need help,” MacNamara said. “Doctors and nurses are helping people all the time. it’s hard for them to flip the switch and say, ‘you know what? I need help too.’”

There is the added pressure now that not only are doctors and nurses witnessing death and tragedy all day at work, but unlike a shooting or a trauma, they now run the risk of bringing coronavirus home to their families and possibly getting them sick, too.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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