This graphic is the result of an exercise asking how health-care workers felt during the Omicron variant COVID surge. (Courtesy CoxHealth CEO Steve Edwards Twitter account)

Two critical care nurses who spoke to the Springfield Daily Citizen about their experiences during the pandemic said they have seen therapists to help cope with the added challenges they’ve endured over the past two years.

Many nurses now do.

In early February, as the Omicron variant contributed to the record-high number of COVID-19 patients in the CoxHealth system, CEO Steve Edwards wrote that he was worried about the mental health of his staff.

“I know they are weary and drained two years into the pandemic,” he wrote, adding that he fears that counseling through the hospital system’s employee assistance program, and support from mental health partners, may not be enough for the staff.

Burnout and exhaustion were experienced by more than three-quarters of the 1,119 healthcare workers surveyed by the nonprofit Mental Health America when asked about the added toll the pandemic has taken across the industry. A vast majority of respondents reported experiencing stress (93 percent) and anxiety (86 percent). The survey was conducted in the summer of 2020.

Recently, CoxHealth began a pilot program with Burrell Behavioral Health to hold a set of interactive virtual “Be Well” sessions, which Edwards wrote are opportunities for the staff to “experience the benefits of self-care, mindfulness and connection.”

Dr. Shelly Farnan, vice president of Burrell’s Be Well initiatives, said on Feb. 24 that six of the group sessions have been held for CoxHealth staff so far, and that more are planned based on the responses.

Farnan said the sessions are designed to help health-care providers with current mental health issues, as well as anticipated future issues, through evidence-based psychology practices. The sessions were developed specifically for health-care workers in collaboration with CoxHealth based on local and national data on how the pandemic has affected the mental wellbeing of health-care workers.

Cory Matteson

Cory Matteson moved to Springfield in 2022 to join the team of Daily Citizen journalists and staff eager to launch a local news nonprofit. He returned to the Show-Me State nearly two decades after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Prior to arriving in Springfield, he worked as a reporter at the Lincoln Journal Star and Casper Star-Tribune. More by Cory Matteson