Health workers know what good care is. Pandemic burnout is getting in the way.

Posted about 2 months ago

October 2, 2021
Yuki Noguchi

The desperate and frantic pace of hospital work in 2020 in New York, the epicenter of the U.S. pandemic at the time, was more chaotic than anything intensive care nurse Matthew Crecelius had ever seen. "It was like watching a bomb go off in slow motion," he says.

He was caring for double the usual number of critically ill patients and navigating hospital halls that looked more like construction zones, with giant fans and plastic tubing blowing a deafening level of extra ventilation. He couldn't hear his patients, or see them through the giant wooden doors of the negative pressure chambers.

"You shout out to somebody, 'Hey, can you check on my other people?' " he says. " 'I can't even see a monitor; I don't know how they're doing.' "

Once, while Crecelius tended to one COVID-19 patient, another ripped off his oxygen mask, triggering a heart attack. Alarms blared. Crecelius rushed to the room, swathing himself in a new gown, to try to revive the man -- who died clutching a photo of his daughter. As other nurses rushed in to help, other unattended patients started to crash...