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COVID-19 In Allegheny County: Health Care Workers Feeling Emotional Toll Of Pandemic

By: KDKA's Jennifer Borrasso

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Health care workers are feeling the emotional toll as coronavirus cases continue to rise in Pennsylvania.

Allegheny General Hospital is trying to help its workers. The hospital has a hotline, counseling and decompression rooms.

Right now, there are 300 coronavirus patients in AGH's system and around 100 COVID-19 patients in the ICU. On Monday, Governor Tom Wolf painted a grim picture of how hospitals are on the brink of being overwhelmed by coronavirus patients.

Hershey Health Center nurse Maureen Casey had a desperate plea during the governor's briefing.

"Like waves on a shore, it just keeps coming," said Casey. "As a nurse, we just have one simple ask: please wear a mask. ... Nurses go home, cry in the shower, cry in their car alone because of the desperation and exhaustion they feel."

Allegheny Health Network
(Photo Credit: KDKA)

In Pittsburgh, AHN Chief Nurse Executive Claire Zangerle says nurses carry an incredible burden.

"We've been seeing people die, right in front of our eyes, alone without their family," Zangerle said. "It's causing them to sometimes step back and say, 'Can I continue to do this?'"

Frank Jans is AHN's behavioral health director. He said to help relieve stress, there is a 24/7 emotional support line.

"The things that we hear on the hotline range everything from just concern about going home and being around family, to I'm beginning to wonder if this is the right career path for me," said Jans.

Employees also can talk to a therapist if needed. And if the staff needs to take time out, there are decompression rooms.

"Where any staff person can go for a temporary rest, to sit in a massage chair, do some mindfulness activities," said Jans

There is a concern about staff shortages. Hospitals have had to tap into traveling nurses and are offering incentive pay to staff to pick up extra shifts.

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