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Overworked and Exhausted; An Open Letter from a Frontline Healthcare Worker at LMH

As cases of COVID-19 keep rising and hospitals continue to fill up, healthcare workers are running on empty. LMH Health has been providing regular updates on the pandemic through a digital newsletter. Last week, the Lawrence hospital emailed another update. Along with statistical information about the number of in-patients being treated at LMH, the update contained an open letter written by an employee. KPR wanted to bring that open letter to the airwaves, so we arranged to record it. Shannon Fletcher is a respiratory therapist and the author of the letter. Today, she's KPR's guest commentator.  

Guest Commentator Shannon Fletcher is a respiratory therapist at LMH Health and manages respiratory care for the hospital. 


Commentary Postscript: The co-worker Shannon Fletcher was worried about did test positive for coronavirus.

(Special thanks to Rebecca A. Smith, Amy Northrup and Shannon Fletcher for their assistance in recording this guest commentary.)

(Transcript / Edited Radio Version)

4 a.m., Friday, November 20, 2020 

I woke up two hours before my alarm went off. Well, that's not exactly true; I woke up earlier than that. I climbed out of bed two hours before my alarm was supposed to sound. I couldn't sleep. I'm worried I won't have enough staff this weekend. I had another respiratory therapist message me last night that, saying she had some symptoms and was going to contact employee health to be tested for coronavirus in the morning. I cannot tell you how hard I've been praying for this person to be negative.
This employee is also praying for a negative test; she doesn't want to miss work. She can't afford it financially, and... I suspect, she doesn't want to not be there for her coworkers. If this staffer is positive and can't work for the next week or two, I do not know how I will manage.
I check social media sporadically and see about half the people I know posting to help stop the spread of the virus, and trust me when I say I am so thankful for this. I also see posts from people still making holiday travel plans in the midst of all this. I have canceled mine. Nearly everyone I work with has canceled theirs.  
I really need to see my extended family. I have not seen my parents since last December. I broke down in tears in my office yesterday because it all feels so out of my control, because it is out of my control. I voiced this to my boss, and he said he was there to prop me up. My longtime co-worker and friend commented that if I went over the edge, he would jump first so I could land on him and soften my fall.
I am not the only one feeling this way. I am not the only one voicing it. Please listen to us. Please help us. I pray for God to guard and protect each of those under my supervision by name as I fall asleep. I pray the 23rd Psalm each morning before I go to work so I have enough willpower to leave my driveway.
This isn't influenza. And this isn't just affecting "old" people. I am not interested in anyone's comments about how masks don't work. I know they help. So does social distancing. So does washing your hands. So does staying home, if you are able. And most importantly, so does following the quarantine process if you do get infected. I suspect half of you will agree, and the other half will think I am whining about my chosen career and how difficult this is. I love you all and will care for you when you need me. If I don't first drop from exhaustion while trying to do it.    
Sincerely, a frustrated respiratory therapist.

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Respiratory Evaluation Center at LMH Health

Open Letter from a Respiratory Therapist at LMH Health

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