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From the Frontlines: Nurses reflect on the toll the pandemic has taken on their mental health

Des Moines ER and ICU nurses told Local 5 about the loss they've witnessed and the toll it's taken on their own wellbeing.

DES MOINES, Iowa — One week ago, Local 5 went inside the ER and ICU at Methodist Hospital in Des Moines where doctors and nurses showed us how the omicron surge is depleting resources.

This week, nurses in those departments open up about the toll the pandemic has taken on their wellbeing. 

ICU nurse Brent Beaman has been in the field for 33 years, and said this is like nothing he's seen before.

"I have nothing to compare it to," Beaman said. "I think we've learned to celebrate when things go right. But I'm not going to lie, those days aren't often and they're not nearly as joyful now."

"I don't think a lot of us have processed it, we've lost a lot of staff members to that burnout," said ICU nurse Stacy Johnson. "What scares me most is it's people who are my age, or even younger, that I've seen die on the ventilators. People with young children. And it's probably, it's been the worst time in my 10 years, I would say, as a nurse."

Sarah Hulgan, an ER charge nurse, said the anxiety doesn't go away when she's off the clock.

RELATED: From the frontlines: An inside look at a Des Moines hospital as it handles the recent COVID surge

"I think it's typical for a nurse to come into her shift, feeling anxious before she even gets to the hospital," said ER Charge Nurse Sarah Hulgan. "I drive 45 minutes every day. And I know on my way to work, I'm already thinking, what's it going to be like today? How am I going to handle it? How am I going to get everybody where they need to go?"

But these frontline workers say there's something else compounding their struggles—the way the public is treating them. Nurses share what you can do to help and what they want the public to know before they step foot in a hospital.

RELATED: Study bill that would ban vaccine mandates advances in Iowa House

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