Gary Tetz

That pandemic. Wow.

While it was happening and people were dying and stuff, I remember thinking, “This is kind of a difficult time we’re going through. I feel a little stressed and anxious.” But until researchers recently discovered that emotional exhaustion rose as COVID-19 raged, I thought it was just me.

But no, it turns out I wasn’t alone. Healthcare workers apparently went from 32% to 40% on the Emotional Exhaustion Meter between the beginning of the pandemic and early 2022. It’s shocking I know but … science. 

According to the study, nurses were especially hard hit, which surprised me, since everything was always completely under control. It’s not like their colleagues were getting sick or quitting, or their beloved residents were passing away, or they felt isolated and alone. What did they possibly have to worry about?

It’s all very puzzling, so I’m trying like crazy to remember what was actually going on during that time — something, anything that could explain such shocking growth in mental unwellness. 

I vaguely recall being introduced to an exciting new virus no one knew anything about, and being told to stop breathing so much and wash my mail, then to stop mailing so much and wash my breath. We didn’t have vaccines for a while, but at least we had bleach, horse pills and floor decals telling us where to stand.  

With the supply chain broken and PPE in short supply, I think I saw long-term care staff lurching down facility hallways in welding masks and ski goggles, draped in left-over bubble wrap from Amazon packages and shreds of moldy blue tarps from the garage. Or maybe that was just a scene from the movie “Halloween Kills”? Everything is kind of hazy.

Now it’s October of 2022, and the pandemic is absolutely over — the president said so. The last Emotional Exhaustion data we have is from January of 2022, so in the absence of further cutting-edge research, who knows what’s happened since? Maybe the underlying challenges making long-term care staff so stressed have been magically taken care of, and we’re all feeling better now. I certainly hope so. 

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a two-time national Silver Medalist and three-time regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program, as well as an Award of Excellence honoree in the APEX Awards. He’s been amusing, inspiring, informing and sometimes befuddling long-term care readers worldwide since the end of a previous century. He is a writer and video producer for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.