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'Convenient targets': Omaha area nurses face fatigue, burnout, and disrespect

Posted at 6:35 PM, Feb 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-08 19:35:03-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Nurse leaders are open about fatigue, burnout, and disrespect from patients. But why is this happening?

"Starting from the beginning of the pandemic and a lot of media outlets portray healthcare workers, or other essential workers, as heroes. We saw a lot of news articles about this," UNO Assistant Professor Mia Zhu said.

Zhu believes calling health care workers "heroes" is a solid way to describe their work but that "crown" can also weigh heavy.

"But recent research has found if they portray health care workers and other essential workers as heroes we also overlook they are also suffering in the pandemic," Zhu said.

"I do think over the past six years, there's been sort of a lowering of the bar around what's acceptable behavior in public," Nebraska Medicine Director of Behavioral Health David Cates said.

Cates says as humans we are guided by what other people think is acceptable. He's noticing a segment of the population is tired of the restrictions and various requirements.

"Healthcare workers do become convenient targets for people to vent their pent-up frustration," Cates said.

With all the misinformation about vaccines, treatment, and other preventative measures, Cates says there's skepticism and even a distrust of public health officials and health care workers.

"We've had patients with COVID getting treated in the hospital who don't believe they have COVID and they feel like they just want to be left alone or given some other kind of treatment because we are treating them for COVID," Cates said.

Highlighting hospitals and their meaningful work while also showing signs of appreciation is important to helping sustain hospitals and their workforces.

"Compassion fatigue is a process. It's something that builds slowly over time to where a provider or caregiver simply loses their resources or capacity to give any more. I liken it to a very strong and beautiful iceberg supporting sea life in the ocean. It's melting slowly in front of us," Methodist Hospital Community Counseling Program's Ellen McElderry said.

"It's hard to recruit and retain people if they are mistreated or asked to do extraordinary kinds of things with extra effort and sacrifice and have that not be recognized," said Cates.

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