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Nurses share their story of perseverance during National Nurse Week

National Nurse Week is May 6-12
Posted at 5:29 PM, May 08, 2021

MADISON — More than a year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everyone's life and impacted healthcare workers on the frontline negatively.

To celebrate National Nurse Week we checked to see how those heroes are doing.

UW critical care nurse Laura Kasten worked with patients on the COVID floor and said it's been an extremely difficult year

"A full third of our patients died and it was just continuously heartbreaking," Kasten said."I genuinely thought that it was a matter of not if I was going to bring COVID to my family, but when."

She wasn't the only nurse beginning to get overwhelmed by how many of their patients were dying due to the virus.

UW Registered Nurse Mariah Clark with tears in her eyes remembers being there with the patients to comfort them in their last moments.

"The last thing they feel maybe the squeeze of a human hand but it's a squeeze of a human hand through a glove," Clark said.

The added stress in an already stressful job sent some seeking outside help to cope.

"I have to say that a large number of my co-workers in the COVID intensive care unit have unfortunately needed to be started on anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications," Kasten said.

A study out of England published in the Journal Occupation Health found half of healthcare workers in the intensive care units during June and July of 2020 reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Additional information showed a portion of healthcare workers are also suffering from PTSD (40%), severe anxiety (11%), with alcohol (7%) and severe depression (6%).

Kasten said so many of nurses also entered therapy to the talk about the amount of deaths they witnessed.

Although, its been a traumatic year both Kasten and Clarke say it's been so fulfilling to be able to be with people during the scariest moments of their whole life.

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