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"They're exhausted" | Hospital counselors help doctors, nurses as COVID hospitalizations surge in Mid-South

Support teams in the Methodist Le Bonheur system are assisting frontline medical workers - at all its hospitals, at all hours.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — With active COVID-19 cases crossing 30,000 in Shelby County for the first time Monday, area medical teams are bracing for the likelihood of a new high of COVID patients within days.

With staffs tested again, hospital counselors are again playing a significant and much needed role to those to doctors, nurses, and others treating the most serious patients who are struggling to breathe and stay alive.

"They're exhausted. Mentally, physically, spiritually, I mean just across the realm," Methodist Hospital Director of Employee Assistance Program Sandra Worlow said.

That's how she described how doctors and nurses are faring these days on the COVID frontlines in the Methodist Le Bonheur Hospital System.

"It's just been very busy," Worlow added.

Day and night, medical teams are again in the teeth of the latest Omicron fueled patient surge, with no signs of slowing down.

"Just a lot of disappointment, a lot of burnout, a lot of stress," Worlow said.

Staff is again stressed and strained, going on two years straight in this up and down pandemic.

"Just lending that ear, you know. We have a lot that call and just, just want someone to talk to, you know, ventilate," Worlow said.

That assisting and consoling is done virtually, at all Methodist hospitals, at all hours, on all devices.

"If you have a smart phone, you can have a counseling session, you know, TeleHelp, if you have a computer, you know, just find you an empty room somewhere," Worlow said.

Such talks are timely, as area Methodist hospitals nearly doubled its COVID patient total in just 10 days, with only four ICU beds available systemwide Monday morning.

"They feel like they are doing hospice work, palliative care, because they (patients) get in the ICU, on the ventilator, the chances really decrease of them coming off. And so just facing death," Worlow said.

On top of that, Worlow said the vast majority of patients seriously sick with COVID in hospitals remain unvaccinated.

"There's a lot of regret but there's not regret until they get it, you know. They think, there's a lot of people out there who still think the virus isn't real, it's a political thing. But it is," Worlow said.

Monday afternoon, Shelby County Health Director Dr. Michelle Taylor told Shelby County commissioners she's hopeful they'll soon be the peak of cases and hospitalizations, followed by a a sharp decline, as the Omicron variant played out already in other parts of the world.

She reminded the public to avoid going to an emergency room for COVID testing and instead go to one of many COVID testing sites in Shelby County.

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