Are doctors and nurses getting burned out by the second wave of the pandemic?

There is growing concern from health care professionals this might be the case as infections surge in BC.

Doctors of BC President Dr. Kathleen Ross told Vista Radio physicians are fighting an uphill battle when caring for their patients.

“I would say that physicians have had to double-down their efforts and energies in order to meet the demands of the pandemic and that’s not just caring for those that are acutely ill in the hospital but also for those seen in community settings.”

“It is essentially a syndrome of emotional exhaustion or difficulty coping with managing patients in our health care system and that at times is because we can’t fully access what we want for our patients.”

Ross mentioned physician burnout was a major topic of conversation even before the pandemic began.

“We hear that burnout across the country was actually a challenge and not just in Canada but in North America for many years as well. Certainly, physicians and Doctors of BC have been working closely with our governing bodies to figure out ways to streamline care.”

In addition, services like telehealth and virtual care access were already started to transform the way we received medical care pre-COVID.

“Telehealth and virtual care access was already starting to show up in our patient care as one of the tools and both of them are important for those in rural and remote areas and that’s no different up in our northern areas. This allows patients to stay in the comfort of their home or stay close to their centre and access specialists they might now be able to see otherwise without travelling great distances,” added Ross.

BC Nurses Union President, Christine Sorensen stated inadequate staffing levels in the north are leading to mental health issues and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“In the north, the nurses were already struggling under a 25% less capacity number of nurses we already knew they were in a severe shortage and this has only amplified that shortage and the stress the nurses are facing.”

The spiking COVID-19 infection rates in the province are having a major impact on healthcare staff.

“One in ten infections are happening within health care workers and out of that, 18% of those are nurses so they are at the highest risk of getting infected in the health care system. This is why we have called for unfettered access to personal protective equipment.”

Sorensen mentioned nurses are no different than the rest of the public where they have children and families that go to work and school and still have to treat people who are struggling.