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Pandemic Profile: The Emotional Toll Of Caring For COVID-19 Patients

Scripps Health Nurse Practitioner Charlotte Thomas talks outside of a hospita...

Photo by Matt Hoffman

Above: Scripps Health Nurse Practitioner Charlotte Thomas talks outside of a hospital in Chula Vista, Dec. 17, 2020.

This Christmas the COVID-19 pandemic has stretched intensive care unit beds to the max. There will be no holiday for health care workers on the frontlines of the crisis.

"Our workload has been higher for sure and I would say that it's the busiest I've probably seen," said Scripps Health Nurse Practitioner Charlotte Thomas, who works in the ICU at Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista. That hospital has had some of the highest numbers of coronavirus patients in the county, and Thomas usually works with these patients.

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

"Usually by the time I see people, they are really in distress," Thomas said. "Patients in the ICU tend to have a higher mortality than other areas of the hospital. COVID-19 obviously has an higher mortality than our average, so a tremendous amount of our patients have not survived hospitalization."

RELATED: Rady Children’s Hospital First In Region To Begin Vaccinating Frontline Workers

Thomas said the core of her job, taking care of patients, has not changed, but now she does it with a lot more protective equipment. The pandemic has impacted her in other ways.

"It's emotionally difficult to see people that sick and to try to have to care for so many of them," Thomas said. "That has been difficult for all of us but me in particular as well. Also to have to become part of the patients extended family and communicating with their families so it has changed from that perspective."

Special Feature Pandemic Profiles

In an ongoing series, KPBS takes a look at how San Diegans are coping during the coronavirus pandemic.

While the pandemic has been challenging, it’s the patients that recover that keep Thomas going every day.

"Those are my favorite," she said. "The people that get better, and then we play a song overhead... when they leave and we’ll line the hallways and clap and applaud, and those are the best."

KPBS spoke to Thomas the day she got her coronavirus vaccine.

"It’s everything. It’s everything for the entire world, because as we vaccinate and break those suits of armor, it’s not just for me and my family but for the entire world," she said.

To get back to normalcy and not overwhelm the healthcare system Thomas is hoping San Diegans will do their part: wearing masks, avoiding crowds and staying home when possible.


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Photo of Matt Hoffman

Matt Hoffman
Health Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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