Fatigue setting in for nurses on front lines of COVID-19 outbreak

UPLAND TOWNSHIP, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Ever-increasing shortages of staff and personal protection equipment are among the challenges facing health care workers not just at Crozer-Chester Medical Center but across the country.

The long hours of treating COVID-19 patients add to the challenges.

"It's really busy. The patients are sicker than ever," said trauma nurse Peggy Malone.

After working a 16-hour shift taking care of COVID-19 patients at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, Malone drove into her driveway last week and literally passed out.

"I just closed my eyes for what I thought would be a minute and I woke up three hours later. I guess I was just that tired," she said.

Chelsea Rabena, a registered nurse at Einstein Medical Center, says she's been working 12 -hour shifts that often turn into 13 to 14 hours depending on how busy they are.

"It's exhausting, not only are you exhausted but there's also a sense of you feel for these patients and their families," said Rabena.

"What's really difficult when you go into these patients and you're dressed like a Martian, you know I'm sure they feel isolated," added Malone.

Then there's the ever-restrictive federal guidelines on personal protection equipment.

"We're wearing a mask that we used to remove each time we leave the room. We're wearing it for an entire day, an entire shift," said Malone.

Rabena says, "I'm most concerned about bringing anything home with me. I have a baby at home and husband as well, so I am very scared to take the mask off and put it back on."

Although the work has been exhausting both physically and emotionally, these medical professionals say they've never been more proud to be a nurse.

"And we can't forget that we can't do this without our respiratory therapists, and our housekeepers and our nutritionists, this is such a team effort," said Malone.

Rabena adds, "And all of the support that we've gotten has been so appreciated, I've never felt more support ever."

Both nurses stressed that the president and Congress need to step up the effort to get them more personal protection equipment so they're not having to reuse masks after tending to COVID-19 patients.
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