A frontline healthcare worker hopes more tokens of appreciation from community members can help lift morale amid burnout.
MAINE, Maine – Although hospitalizations are down a bit in Maine, they remain high.
Nearly two years into the pandemic, healthcare workers in Maine have been stretched and pushed to new limits. That’s why nurse practitioner Emily O’Connell is taking to social media, asking Mainers to support healthcare workers with tokens of appreciation to help boost morale and prevent burnout.
O’Connell said the sentiment would be welcome and thinks it could have a ripple effect.
“To try to give each other more hope and kindness to each other which then brings unity as a community. We’re working and living through covid but it’s also other things in the world going on that have compounded the stress that we all feel,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell works in both primary care and inpatient settings.
“My personal challenge, I think, is just trying to have the patience and tolerance for the discomfort that we all feel and the exhaustion that we all feel,” she said.
The nurse practitioner said she cut her primary care hours because of burnout.
“I’ve never done that in my career, but I had to defend myself,” she said. “If I have to go see my patient and I need something, you stick your head out and there aren’t many people around to help me. [because] we’re all very busy.”
Busy, tired, stressed, exhausted and for many on the ground, the COVID pandemic seems and seems endless.
“We have more patients than we see, but the same number of providers,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell added that one of the most important things healthcare workers need right now is kindness.
“Just the simple kindness coming from the community and the patients we see. We’re doing our best to provide the care that patients are used to, and it’s falling behind,” she said.
“I really try to help my colleagues who are struggling, but it’s hard when I see nurses in the hallway or respiratory therapists running around. And it’s hard to support people who are exhausted themselves. “, O’Connell said.
Jeff Barkin is a psychiatrist and president of the Maine Medical Association. He said the healthcare industry in Maine is currently going through a dire and frightening situation.
“Everything has changed with COVID. People are really overwhelmed. The system is really thin. Wait times are really long. So it’s really difficult for everyone in healthcare,” Barkin said.
Barkin said anxiety and depression rates increased by 40%.
“Rates of substance use disorders and alcohol use disorders are up about 50%, and overdose deaths are up from pre-COVID. So we’re seeing a real crisis of mental health and addiction issues,” he said.
“Forty percent of nurses are considering leaving nursing, and 1 in 5, 20% of physicians, are considering leaving the profession. It’s terrifying if you or someone you know can get sick, that’s- i.e. all of us. So, all of us need to do our part to support our healthcare workforce,” Barkin said.
Barkin added that the most effective way to take care of yourself is to get vaccinated.
“That’s how you can support healthcare workers who are really there to support you,” Barkin said.
O’Connell said any pick-me-up is appreciated.
“What does a healthcare worker need? It’s hand lotion, comfortable shoes and socks for their long shifts, it’s healthy food,” she said. declared. “Physical health counseling services, massages, acupuncture, activities in the community that help get out of ourselves to get just [some] relaxing.”
the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce recently announced the delivery of healthy meals to Maine Medical Center and Northern Light Mercy as a token of appreciation.
“Part of our thought process was, ‘We want to help take care of them. We want to provide them with healthy meals. We want to make sure they take care of themselves,” Quincy Hentzel, CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber, mentioned.
“I think those tokens of appreciation have pretty much stopped. I think morale is probably very low. We wanted to make sure they know we appreciate them,” Quincy Hentzel said.
Hentzel said the Portland Regional Chamber is working with local businesses to purchase meals for frontline workers, for example:
- Bernstein Chour partners with El Rayo restaurant to offer authentic Mexican cuisine.
- MEMIC pledged to donate 100 meals a week for the next two months.
- Hannaford is giving back to essential workers by donating Hannaford gift cards.
- cPort Credit Union will participate in a food drive by partnering with local sports bar Rivalries to bring lunches to Maine Medical Center and Northern Light Mercy Hospital over the next two weeks.
“If you know someone who is a healthcare worker, listen to their specific needs. If they have kids and you are friends, maybe take care of their kids for an afternoon Maybe you can babysit. Of course you want to be aware of COVID,” Barker said.
If a business or organization would like to partner with the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce to provide food for essential workers, they can contact Tommy Johnson at email@example.com or (207) 772-2811, ext. 226.
If anyone wants to support healthcare workers with some of the items O’Connel said many need, they can contact the hospital (or hospitals) they’d like to help. They can contact hospitals and speak to the provider’s wellness manager or a communications specialist.