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'Why won't you save yourself?': Health care workers frustrated, overworked due to unvaccinated COVID-19 patients

This time, health care workers are frustrated because hospitalizations are avoidable if more people would get vaccinated.
Credit: AP Photos

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Hospitals are short-staffed and health care workers are dealing with possibly one of the most difficult times in their lives as many of them see death every day.

That takes a toll on mental health and physical health. This time, health care workers are also frustrated because hospitalizations are avoidable if more people would get vaccinated.

"To be honest with you, I came from ICU unit, and when you see death every day, it (does) affect you," said Debi Delapaz, nurse manager of UF Health Jacksonville's COVID-19 unit. "You go home and you, tears, because you don't want to see those people dying and no matter what you do, the best you can to save them, but sometimes it's really -- We really can't."

Before Delapaz became the nurse manager of UF Health Jacksonville's COVID-19 unit, she worked in the intensive care unit.

"I had days I went home and I cried," she said. "You have bad dreams. Sometimes you dream about the patient that you take care of."

Studies published in multiple medical journals find health care workers, especially nurses, from around the world are reporting high levels of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Delapaz says nurses in her unit are now in charge of five or six people at a time instead of four.

"Most of the day we don't have enough staff," she said. "We are short even though people trying to help and pick up more days or more hours. Still, it's hard because we have a lot of patients."

On her unit, there's frustration. Nearly all the people they're seeing get sicker and sicker and die are unvaccinated.

"The staff that we have, they kind of got upset with that," Delapaz said. "Because why won't you get the vaccine? Why won't you save yourself if you can?"

Hospitals have mental health resources for their staff. National resources include the following:

  • The Anxiety and Depression Association of America

1-240-485-1001

  •  The National Alliance on Mental Illness

1-800-950-6264

  • The Association of Black Psychologists

1-301-449-3082

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