'We are physically exhausted': California health care workers deal with overwhelming stress amid COVID-19

California health care workers are experiencing significant emotional and mental impact from caring for patients during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic according to a new survey of those on the frontline.

Some doctors and nurses seem ready to have a meltdown.

Seventy-six percent do not believe their mental health needs are being addressed according to a new survey just released by the California Health Care Foundation.

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"Two out of three providers say they feel emotionally drained right now and nearly as many say that they are burned out. I think it makes it clear that health care providers across the state of California are really feeling the strain of working during the COVID pandemic," Director Kristof Stremikis said.

Diana Atkins, a respiratory therapist, described the fear of taking it home to her family.

"Two out of three providers say they feel emotionally drained right now and nearly as many say that they are burned out," said Kristof Stremikis, director of the California Health Care Foundation.

"It's very stressful, it's very fatiguing," she said. "I've had many of coworkers who just all of a sudden started crying. Never in my 30-plus years has it been like this."

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Doctors describe the fear of seeing patients who could have COVID-19.

"Sure we are having right now traumatic stress," emergency medicine specialist Dr. Desmond Carson said.

There is also a fear of financial instability.

About 84% of emergency departments and 82% of pediatrician offices report a significant drop in patients.

"We are physically exhausted, we are mentally exhausted," said Maureen Dugan with the California Nurses Association. "Nurses are dealing with family issues in workplace issues. This is not ending, right? It's ongoing and we're now fearing a surge in the Bay Area."

And there is an ongoing shortage of supplies with half of providers saying they are still reusing PPE.

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What would help the most?

According to Dugan, "We've got to stay home. Not have parties."

It's not just healthcare providers who are feeling the stress. Over 90% of them say they are seeing more anxiety and depression among their patients.

Take a look at all of ABC7's Building a Better Bay Area stories and videos here.


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