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Hospital workers 'traumatized' by pandemic work, new study says

Like others across the country, Washington hospital employees are working long hours and more shifts causing time away from families and increased responsibilities.

SEATTLE — A year of COVID-19 has taken its toll on hospitals.

A new study found hospital staff are experiencing exhaustion, fatigue and PTSD after dealing with the stress of the pandemic.

According to the Washington State Hospital Association, Washington hospitals are dealing with the same issues.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Inspector General studied 300 hospitals, several in Washington.

The study found that hospital employees were working long hours and more shifts causing time away from families and increased responsibilities.

This coupled with seeing death and loss every day left employees with trauma, including PTSD for some. 

Though Washington hospitals dealt with a lot of the problems they did better was preventing as many deaths among hospital employees due to COVID-19, the Washington State Hospital Association said.

“We did not have the significant loss of life that was experienced in other states," said Beth Zeborowski, senior vice president of the hospital association. "And that really is because of the way that people responded in their own personalized of distancing, and masking but also because of cooperation among the hospitals."

The hospital association credits an agreement in Washington that if a hospital was being overburdened, patients, supplies, staff would be moved to other facilities to help with the problem.

“Patients were moved, staff was moved, supplies were moved. And this really saved lives,” Zeborowski said.

While vaccines may start to bring an end to the pandemic, issues with hospitals may be long term. The hospital association fears the stress of the past year will cause people to leave their jobs at hospitals, continuing staffing issues.

“We're very concerned that, you know, we're going to have that situation exacerbated with people deciding that they don't want to continue in the profession. So, there are a number of things that we need to do to take care of staff and make sure that they're able to process the trauma that they've experienced over this period of time and really listen to their needs,” Zeborowski said.

The hospital association said many hospitals are providing grief support and mental health counseling to their employees. They are also working on ways to bring more people into the healthcare profession.

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