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November 10, 2020 ● 2 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. The first healthcare worker we are highlighting is Renee Cherfane, RN. 

Renee Cherfane, RN – ICU Associate Clinical Director: Cooper University Hospital, Camden NJ 

“Most people in currently working in healthcare do not have previous experience with something like this…this is pretty new for people.” 

Renee Cherfane, RN smiles.

Renee Cherfane experienced a great deal of change in a short period of time. After taking on a managerial role as the Associate Clinical Director at Cooper University Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit in February, she was thrown into one of the most stressful experiences for healthcare workers to date – the COVID-19 pandemic. From mid-March until the beginning of July, her unit felt no relief.  

Physicians and nurses working in critical care are exposed to some of the most intense patient situations, as the direst COVID-19 cases find themselves in the ICU. While Cherfane stated that she felt fortunate that she did not feel the immense mental and emotional strain, she knows many who have. According to Cherfane, “As a critical care nurse, you have to have this mentality that it is what it is. [Initially], the nurses did a great job at compartmentalizing everything…but in August and the beginning of September, people started to reflect on what had happened, definitely like a PTSD thing. People were reflecting and realizing just how terrible it was.” 

Beyond acute infection from the coronavirus, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also alarming scientists. While data is still emerging on COVID-19 PTSD, previous studies on the mental health of healthcare workers during the SARS pandemic in 2003 found them to be at a higher risk than non-healthcare workers because of their proximity to the disease itself. Thus, interventions to protect the mental health of healthcare workers are more important now than ever. 

Your experience may be similar to Renee’s. Consider using the Heroes Health app as part of your wellbeing support plan. Heroes Health thanks Renee and all of our nation’s healthcare workers for their contributions to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic!

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