Experts say health care workers experiencing secondary trauma

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Health care workers are empathetic people by nature… but experts say the pandemic is taking a great toll on those frontline workers.

“Calls for mental health crisis and mental health situations have risen drastically,” said Tim Blumentritt, of the Tellurian CARE Center.

And as Covid-19 numbers climb…

“Workers are under a tremendous amount of stress right now given the volume of patients that need car,” said Blumentritt.

During the pandemic, experts have seen two types of trauma develop prevalently within health care workers.

“One is vicarious trauma and the other is secondary trauma,” said Blumentritt.

“Working with humans, means coming into contact with all the pieces of that human. Which may include trauma and if you are someone who cares about other people, that trauma inevitably is going to impact you as well,” said Sarah Johnson, Mental Health Director for the YMCA.

“In health care generally people are very caring, and we need to be aware of what’s called empathy fatigue,” said Blumentritt.

Health officials say, these front-line workers are carrying that emotional burden home, and they need help finding ways to cope.

“Even just talking to someone to get social connectedness and some support,” said Blumentritt.

“If you are a health care worker and you’re finding that your energy is low, or you’re struggling, and you’re feeling like you’re supposed to be on 100 percent of the time, that is just not reasonable,” said Johnson.

Johnson says our region has plenty of resources for people to get help, but the first step is asking for it.

“Asking for help is way harder in our minds than in reality.. most of the time,” said Johnson.

Some local resources available for those struggling include the Great Rivers 211 hotline, the Tellurian Care Center and the YMCA’s Better Together Dinner Table Resilience Program.

Both local health systems have programs in place for staff experiencing mental health crisis.
Health officials want to remind people that resources like 211 and the Better Together Program are also available to non-healthcare workers as well. And if you’re struggling with mental health, reach out to one of these entities for help.