After taking the stress of COVID-19 home and having emotional breakdowns in the middle of the pandemic, certified rehab assistant Louise Raymond is among those in the health-care industry who have been managing their mental health differently during yet another wave of the virus.
As a front-line health-care worker for 15 years at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare in Windsor, Ont., Raymond said Omicron has been “particularly difficult” because of staffing shortages brought on by the more transmissible variant. She finds herself doing things outside her normal scope of practice, such as helping nurses and answering call bells, just to “get the patients’ basic needs met.”
“The first lockdown, everyone was scared. We all really came together as a team and everyone really supported each other. This lockdown is different. Everyone is tired, everyone’s kind of at their wit’s end,” said Raymond, adding her colleagues continue to support each other.
Throughout the pandemic, she’s been providing occupational therapy to her patients — some of them positive for COVID-19. This time, though, Raymond said she’s better equipped with the tools to take care of herself too.
Watch | Louise Raymond talk about emotional toll COVID-19 has taken on her as a health-care worker:
At the beginning, she admitted to pushing her emotions to the side thinking someone else had it worse. Raymond quickly realized the problem when becoming “very emotional and kind of short-fused with my loved ones at home.”
“I had to have that moment where I just cried. I had to. I had to take those 10 minutes just to feel sorry for myself and acknowledge what was happening,” said Raymond. “I didn’t allow myself to feel my feelings because I kept thinking someone else has it worse than me.”
Simple things such as feeling the fresh air press against her face during a work break are enough to give her a boost to get through the rest of her day, she said.
Once her shift is finished, she tries to leave the stress and burden of the pandemic inside the walls of the Prince Road facility in Windsor’s west end. Raymond said that gives her time to go boating or ride her motorcycle in nice weather or work out — all with a clearer, positive focus on her well-being.
New research suggests growing numbers of health-care workers are facing mental health strains.
A recent University of Regina study involving 3,000 health-care workers found more were struggling now compared to the beginning of the pandemic. Roughly 23 per cent of respondents said they were likely struggling with mental health concerns in November, compared with 12 per cent in May 2020.
Although Chantal Khoury said her medical training prepared her for pandemic situations, the “unpredictability” of COVID-19 made it even more difficult.
Khoury is an anesthesia assistant at Windsor Regional Hospital’s Ouellette campus. She’s most busy when there’s no lockdown and all surgeries are permitted, as she spends most of her time in the operating room.
Once I’m there, everything leaves my mind and I’m completely focused on what I’m doing, which is therapeutic mentally.– Chantal Khoury, health-care worker who also does duo trapeze
“It’s been very, very challenging,” said Khoury. “Coming to work and not getting a chance to eat or even have a drink of water is tiring. It’s tiring on the body physically and mentally.”
Even before the pandemic began, she did standing acrobatics with a circus performing group in Windsor and Detroit.
But with the added level of stress brought on by COVID-19, Khoury remembers having to find new ways to cope with the emotions she’d never experienced before.
Reluctant to commit to a new, extreme hobby, Khoury decided anyway to start learning the sport of duo trapeze.
In those moments dangling from her partner’s arms, she said, her mind is blank — a big shift from some “very morbid” days at work caring for sick patients.
“Being involved in duo trapeze gives me something to look forward to, something to be creative with. Once I’m there, everything leaves my mind and I’m completely focused on what I’m doing, which is therapeutic mentally,” said Khoury.
“In turn, it helps me also critically think at work because I get to relieve all that stress.”
Watch | Chantal Khoury explains why she started an extreme hobby to help her mental health:
Others, like Dr. Rose Ann Ng, have turned to tennis and exercise to cope with stress. She’s even renewed her passion for photography during COVID-19.
Ng, a family physician for 31 years, said the pandemic has put a lot of pressure on her shoulders. It’s also a lot busier, she said.
“I’m human, like everybody else. I do have my meltdowns. The biggest thing is I make sure I keep a routine schedule every day.”
Watch | Dr. Rose Ann Ng talk on how she’s getting through the pandemic while working 7 days a week:
Monday through Friday, Ng tends to her patients. On weekends, she administers vaccines.
“It’s a responsibility I have. I became a doctor for a reason,” she said. “I’m tired, but at least at the end of the day, I helped, I made a difference … I helped [them] through this pandemic.”
Even in freezing temperatures, Ng finds warmth in playing tennis or going for a run before work during frigid mornings.
When asked if she’s burned out by the pandemic, Ng replied with a smile and a laugh: “Not yet.”