November 30, 2020 ● 3 min read
By Shivam Bhargava and Emily Bradfield
It has been over seven months since COVID-19 arrived in the United States, and the pandemic continues to affect the lives of millions of Americans. Some of the most directly impacted are healthcare workers, who often come face-to-face with the physical, mental, and emotional strain of the virus daily. Emily Bradfield and Shivam Bhargava, two Heroes Health Student Volunteers, sat down with hardworking healthcare workers to hear about their personal experiences on the frontlines. Last week, we spoke to Renee Cherfane, RN, the ICU Associate Clinical Director at Cooper Hospital in Camden, NJ. This week we spoke with two physicians who work in pediatrics, Aakriti Bhargava, MD and Sara Todd, MD.
“Things that used to stress me out, don’t anymore. You realize how precious life is and it’s better to appreciate the small things today.”
Dr. Aakriti Bhargava, a pediatric resident in Newark, NJ, has witnessed COVID-19‘s impacts on her colleagues’ mental health. When asked about a specific experience that affected her negatively, Dr. Bhargava recounted watching a new mother say goodbye to her newborn.
“I remember taking care of a 25-year-old post-partum patient. She had just given birth to a newborn baby, and within hours developed respiratory distress and tested positive for COVID-19. She was initially on minimal oxygen support and was otherwise doing well. She would FaceTime her newborn baby from the hospital all day and night. Within days, she began to worsen eventually requiring intubation and ventilatory support. I will never forget the night she coded and died. All I could think about was how she left this world without any family by her side and left her newborn baby without a mother all because of this virus. She was just one example of many patients we took care of during the pandemic, who came to the hospital but never left.”
Cases like these have left a lasting impact on Dr. Bhargava and her fellow residents. Dr. Bhargava noted that the pandemic has affected many of her colleagues’ mental health so severely that many of them have PTSD and are currently on medications or receiving therapy. Because of the drastic downturn in the mental health of healthcare workers, she believes that this pandemic has forever changed the world of medicine for physicians. Dr. Bhargava’s experience underscores the need for mental health resources for healthcare workers as they deal with the trauma of watching lives slip away.
Sarah Todd, MD – 4th Year Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Resident: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Medical Center
“There is always a need for mental health support. Not because it is being done poorly, but because there are always ongoing stressors, even outside of COVID-19”
Dr. Sarah Todd, who splits her time between internal medicine and pediatrics, has seen the impacts of COVID-19 both at work and in her personal life. While Dr. Todd noted that things in the hospital have returned to some sort of “normal”, she noted that concerns about the pandemic are ever-changing: “I think it kind of comes in waves — there are weeks when it is sort of, for better or worse, just normal, when it doesn’t come up at work. But then there will be some story of someone with COVID-19 and it puts everyone back on alert.” She stated that while she felt supported by her department, there is always a need for mental health support, even outside of COVID-19. Dr. Todd also mentioned the importance of finding positive outlets to relieve stress and highlighted the necessity of social support networks and friends during this difficult time.
Your experience may be similar to Aakriti’s or Sarah’s. Consider using the Heroes Health app as part of your wellbeing support plan. Heroes Health thanks Dr. Bhargava, Dr. Todd, and all of our nation’s healthcare workers for their contributions to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic!