Lubbock Psychiatrist explains toll pandemic has on medical workers


LUBBOCK, Texas — On Friday, the city reported the hospitalization rate for Trauma Service Area B is at 27.9 percent. The hospitalization rate has been above the 15 percent threshold set by the Governor’s Office for more than 40 days.

“We get into these professions to take care of other people, which is a beautiful and wonderful thing, but often we neglect to see our buckets become less and less full,” said Dr. Sarah Mallard Wakefield, an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry for Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

It has now been eight months since Lubbock had their first case of COVID-19.

“We really saw some physicians, despite uncertainties, despite not having PPE, really feeling some renewed validation of entering this calling,” Dr. Mallard Wakefield said.

She said at the beginning, we saw many showing support for our healthcare workers, but over time, that has waned. Many are feeling tired.

“And frustrated because things are getting worse and not better and additionally because the public has gotten tired as well, understandably, there’s less support and less acknowledgement of our healthcare workers and what they’re going through,” Dr. Mallard Wakefield said.

She said she has seen some clinicians facing burnout, not due to lack of motivation, but lack of resources.

“That is the most morally distressing thing that healthcare workers can experience,” Dr. Mallard Wakefield said.

Dr. Victor James Test, Professor of Medicine and Chief of Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care at TTUHSC said since March, he’s been during a lot of fatigue.

“I want to give my best effort to every patient, every time, all day long, and as we struggle everyday, lots and lots of patients were just profoundly ill. The longer the pandemic goes, the harder it is to be able to commit emotionally the way I would like,” Dr. Test said.

The pandemic has also taken a toll on healthcare workers in different specialties who don’t work with coronavirus patients.

“The uncertainty. Not knowing what we’ll be able to do and how we’ll be able to do it, especially right now we’re in a surge that’s preventing elective surgeries,” Dr. Mallard Wakefield said.

Dr. Ashley Sturgeon, a dermatologist, associate professor at TTUHSC and President of the Lubbock County Medical Society said she does her best to take care of her mental health, although it can be difficult to interact with others during the pandemic.

“And we’re just so out of control with the situation and knowing that it’s been ten years since I had to intubate anyone I think gosh, I hope it doesn’t come down to dermatologists and it did, I mean it has,” Dr. Sturgeon said.

That’s why Dr. Mallard Wakefield said there are resources available.

“Texas Tech Psychological sciences clinic is providing 6 pro-bono sessions to any health care worker or student in the health care industry,” Dr. Mallard Wakefield said.

She said it also takes the community to come together and make sure residents are doing their best to help those who help them.

“When you can have this sense of and the feeling of the community being invested together, that lowers everyone’s distress, increases motivation to persevere and push forward and so I think that’s really the most important thing,” Mallard-Wakefield said.

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