New COVID-19 surge causing mental health strain on Colorado medical workers

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DENVER (KDVR) — Health care workers are facing the second wave of COVID-19 head-on as they continue to deal with record-setting numbers across Colorado.

The state hit a new high Thursday with 1,500 COVID-19 hospitalizations and 86 percent of the state’s intensive care unit beds in use. Not all of those beds are taken up by COVID-19 patients, but health care workers say the influx of patients is taking a toll on their mental health.

“It’s scary. I think just the volume that’s coming in, it’s just a different feel than the wave that came back in March and April,” said Kyle Mullica, a state Representative and emergency room nurse.

Mullica has a unique perspective as both a legislator and health care worker. 

“We’ve been doing this for more than eight months in the middle of a pandemic. We all appreciate being called heroes and angels, that’s all well and fine. But we’re also real people,” said Mullica.

More health care workers are seeking help for their own mental health, according to Lexi Eliades, a behavioral health clinician with Medical Center of Aurora. Eliades helped create the Peer Support Team for HealthONE just before the pandemic began.

“The goal is to support the wellness and mental health of our people and to do that in a way where they feel it’s safe to reach out,” said Eliades, “as the pandemic hit, I needed more people for the team.”

Eliades says she has noticed an increase in requests from hospital workers during the second wave of the virus.

“The common theme has been the unknown. What is our life going to look like, what is our job going to look like, how is serving patients going to change?” said Eliades.

She reminds people that hospital staff are often facing the worst of COVID-19, seeing people die alone and treating patients who can’t have visitors, on top of adjusting to the rapid increase in overall patients.

Mullica says the best way to support health care workers right now is to follow public health orders.

“If you’re not going to do it for yourself, maybe do it for the nurses that you call heroes. Maybe that’s going to be the thing that gets people to perk up because the trajectory that we’re on is not a sustainable one,” said Mullica.

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