Exhausted health care workers fight through burnout amid tough times during pandemic

Southwest General staff show resilience through peer support groups

SAN ANTONIO – Frontline workers, hospital staff, and health care professionals have been bearing the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic since the United States declared it a public health emergency last January.

“You know, after a year of dealing with this, they’re tired. They’re worn out”, said Dr. Jason Miller, chief of staff at Southwest General Hospital.

January 2021 has also been the deadliest month of the pandemic so far. The U.S. has had more than 400,000 deaths, and San Antonio has more than 2,000.

Miller said medical professionals never imagined being in this kind of situation. Health care professionals are now experiencing the same level of trauma as their patients.

Miller, who served in the military, said he compares the current health crisis to one of his deployments in a battle environment, with the reality of suffering the same traumas as the patients he saw.

“It was scary to treat people that were at sort of the same risk that you were at, and this is much like that. I mean, this has been a year-long battle environment for health care workers,” Miller said.

Some of the Southwest General staff have even had to overcome the battle of fighting the virus itself.

Esperanza Glen, an emergency department unit clerk, said her health reached a critical point after testing positive for COVID-19. She said she felt fear after testing positive. She didn’t know how her body would respond to the deadly virus.

Glen, who has been working as a unit clerk for 35 years, said there was no other option than to get back to work and hit the ground running after she recovered. She said she worried for her family, but she also fears for her work family and encourages them to take life one day at a time.

“Hey, just keep going, just keep going. Our shift is going to end. Tomorrow is another day. Go home. Forget about work for just a little while. Come back. Hit the ground running. Let’s go,” Glen said, referring to some of the things she tells her co-workers.

Miller said the hospital has implemented support teams that make daily contact with staff members. The teams are available every day of the week and have received great feedback from leads and multiple individuals. Some said it’s a relief to just talk about what they’re going through.

About the Author:

Jonathan Cotto is a reporter for KSAT’s Good Morning San Antonio. He’s a bilingual award-winning news reporter and he joined KSAT in 2021. Before coming to San Antonio, Cotto was reporting along the U.S.-Mexico border in South Texas. He’s a veteran of the United States Navy.