Tired, but determined: Nurses push through emotionally draining side of COVID-19 care

They are the people you turn to when at your most vulnerable: nurses. But a new study suggests nurses are the ones in need of TLC.

According to a study by the Ohio State University, some 60% of ICU nurses report poor physical health. About 50% reported poor emotional health.

We took that question and others to two Cedars Sinai nurses on the frontlines of COVID-19.

Jica Gutierrez, a 30-year-old COVID-19 nurse, and 45-year-old Charlotte Guevarra, an ICU nurse. Both understood the pressure, and life-and-death consequences of their job during the pandemic.

Charlotte choked back tears through much of the interview, speaking thoughtfully about the burden and privilege of service. One of the hardest parts of her job over the last year was telling the families of a terminal COVID-19 patient, that only one person could be in the room to say goodbye as the patient passed. 

"Who am I to decide?" she said.

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Jica is a second-generation nurse. Both her mother and father are nurses. They leaned on each other for support during the grueling hours.

Both women expressed sadness over being isolated from their spouses and children during the pandemic. They were too afraid to hug their kids for fear of bringing COVID-19 home. They slept in separate rooms. They went through all this, but did not complain.

These nurses felt duty-bound.

So while the hours were long, the sacrifices heavy, these RNs expressed gratitude and pride in their work. They said they will never forget being on the frontlines during the pandemic. And these medical heroes said to avoid burnout, they took breaks; they listened compassionately to their fellow nurses, and they prayed.