Doctors and Nurses Urged to Take Time for Themselves

As the coronavirus fight continues, mental health experts say it's important doctors and nurses remember to take care of themselves too

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Right now, health care providers at Parkland Hospital are treating between 60 and 70 COVID-19 patients. As they continuously care for the sick, mental health experts say it's important that doctors and nurses take care of themselves.

On the third floor of Parkland, more than 200 doctors, nurses and staff rotate shifts inside the Tactical Care Unit, or TCU, which is designated for COVID-19 patients.

Only authorized people are allowed in that area which is why it's sometimes called the "Red Box" because according to Parkland, during normal times red lines in the operating suites designates a sterile area, and the TCU was built inside the hospital's surgical suites. The door is also painted red to alert people that it's a restricted area.

That's where Dr. Satyam Nayak spends his 12-hour shifts. He is an internal medicine hospitalist at Parkland and also is an assistant professor at UT Southwestern.

"It's definitely long hours, but, you know, I feel very supportive from my team and my hospital. I'm also, you know, working in closely with the nurses and the other specialists in our hospital, we're able to work together and get through this," said Nayak.

He's treated adults of all ages for coronavirus symptoms which include, fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

"We're seeing families getting afflicted with COVID, but you know, we're seeing people recover and we're able to send them home and to be with the families," Nayak said.

Even though his shifts are 12-hours, he said sometimes it can be around the clock because he'll answer phone calls in the night.

To decompress, he said his family and exercising is important.

“I lean on my family and my, especially my wife and my little dog Moxie, but just trying to cherish those moments that we have together at home when I'm off," Nayak Said.

He said he also tries to bike, pick up new hobbies and talk with his family on Zoom.

Dr. Brenda Tillman, PhD, is a trauma therapist and co-founder of Readiness Group, which specializes in working with individuals and organizations in emergency services and the military.

"That's the one thing about this resilient community, they have a job to do and they go forward and do it, the challenge is, the person who normally suffers is the individual who keeps pushing themselves," said Tillman.

"We don't take a lot of time for ourselves just because there isn't a lot, so what we do is we just keep pushing and hope that by the time we get to the end of this thing or the time we can all kind of relax a little bit, then is when we take time for ourselves, what we really want is for that to happen throughout," Tillman said. "What we really want is for people to realize that spending time with family, those people whom you can be around, actually doing a workout, getting out there and getting those endorphins and getting that pleasure center of the brain activated, it's so important."

Nayak said it's also helpful to see the encouragement from the community and also from his patients.

"The other day, one of my patients called me and, and he was just so thankful and grateful for our care and our hard work. He was able to spend his 46 wedding anniversary with his wife and, you know, hearing stories like that, made us feel good inside and helps us to keep moving forward," Nayak said.

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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