Frontline workers struggle with burnout amid pandemic

Burnout can harm patients, doctors and more

DETROIT – Health care workers, especially those on the frontlines in the fight against coronavirus, are experiencing burnout at alarming rates.

It’s a silent crisis hiding in the shadow of the pandemic and it can potentially harm patients, the doctors and nurses themselves.

Aug. 20, 2020: Michigan coronavirus (COVID-19) cases up to 94,697; Death toll now at 6,368

“It doesn’t stop and we don’t know when it’s going to stop,” said Dr. Andy Wilhelm.

A recent study published in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine finds the prevalence of burnout is 40%.

And that can lead to more medical errors, substance abuse or self-harm.

Dr. Lorna Breen died by suicide in May. Overwhelmed, her family said, by caring for critical COVID-19 patients.

“I know my sister felt like she couldn’t sit down,” said her sister, Jennifer Feist. “She couldn’t stop working.”

Burnout is not new, but it’s happening faster and more frequently due to new stressors including lack of PPE and a fear of infecting loved ones.

“There reaches a breaking point where you just can’t take it anymore,” said Dr. Oren Friendman.

Friedman contracted coronavirus in March. When he recovered, he traveled to New York to treat coronavirus patients. He’s now back in LA and treading cases at Cedars-Sinai.

“One of the difficult things that we face that causes tremendous stress for us is when we leave our jobs, we go back into our communities and we see people that are out in the community that aren’t social distancing, aren’t wearing masks, going about life as if we are not dealing with this pandemic,” Friedman said.

A plea to the public to protect themselves and others to reduce the burden on front line medical workers, at imminent risk of burning out.

About the Authors:

You can watch Kimberly Gill weekdays anchoring Local 4 News at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. and streaming live at 10 p.m. on Local 4+. She's an award-winning journalist who finally called Detroit home in 2014. Kim has won Regional Emmy Awards, and was part of the team that won the National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Newscast in 2022.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.