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‘Slow burn’: C.O. health care workers hit hard by pandemic; some move off the frontlines

(Update: Adding video, comments from nurse, Oregon Nurses Association)

'A year ago, every day, I went into work and ... we thought we could catch something that’s going to kill us'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- At the start of the pandemic, health care workers were honored and recognized for the working on the frontlines in an unprecedented situation.

Now, more than a year later, the constant stress outweighs the public praise.

Tiffany Simmons is a registered nurse at St. Charles Bend and a member of the Oregon Nurses Association.

"I think what I've seen is people wanting to just do something different,” Simmons said.

According to a Washington Post study, 3 in 10 health care workers have considered leaving the profession.

Simmons said she knows at least 10 people working on the frontlines who have switched to consulting, case management or educational positions.

Simmons says the stress she and her colleagues have faced this past year has been a “slow burn” that’s grown over time. 

She said even before the pandemic, there was the stress of working with sometimes aggressive or difficult patients.

Then, in the early months of the pandemic, there was the stark fear of dying while simply doing their jobs. 

“A year ago, every day, I went into work and my coworkers went into work, we thought we could catch something that’s going to kill us,” Simmons said. 

Now almost a year later, the pandemic is more common, but the stress continues.

"It’s challenging in regular times, and then you throw something that has the potential to be fatal on top of that, then working under those conditions -- it's a lot,” Simmons said.

Oregon Nurses Association Communications Manager Kevin Mealy said there are enough Oregon nurses in numbers, but it takes time to fill open positions.

"So we haven't actually caught back up,” Mealy said. “There were people who have left the profession at the start of the pandemic who haven't been able to get back at this point."

Simmons still goes to work every day, but the thought of leaving has more than crossed her mind.

"I'll be transparent with you," she said. "I have absolutely considered doing something else and stepping away from the intense, day-to-day, 12-hour shift bed work."

Simmons said the job is extremely stressful, but still rewarding enough to stay.

"Oh, gosh! It’s ultimately, I love what I do." 

Author Profile Photo

Noah Chast

Noah Chast is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Noah here.



  1. Looking at the OHA data dashboard… going back to December of 2019… we see that Emergency Room visits of all kinds were well over 1000 more visits a week than what these hospitals staff have seen since the global “panda-demic” ! So why weren’t medical personnel burnt out before the Wuhan Bat attack from China ???!/vizhome/OregonCOVID-19Update/EmergencyDepartment

    1. It’s probably part of the massive conspiracy involving Democrats, Muslims, LGBT folks, antifa, the vaccine industry, Pence, hospitals, McConnell, Facebook, Prineville, Californians, Hillary, and Trump, and certainly hundreds more.

      Unless… you have a different explanation.

      1. Actually- despite your lame attempt to brush every Demokrat decision off as a conspiracy theory… I’m asking you the question… “why weren’t medical personnel burnt out before the Wuhan Bat attack from China” ??? Have at it BJ- dazzle me with some insight !

        1. Just to be clear, you’re asking why potential daily exposure to a virus with a 1.8% overall fatality rate is wearing people out more than they normally would be. Is that correct?

          (You could always ask the healthcare workers that are posting here in the comments, but for some reason you don’t seem to want to talk with them.)

          1. Seems reasonable… “why potential daily exposure to a virus with a 1.8% overall fatality rate is wearing people out”… when you consider that the poor sap at the grocery deli- working the drive thru coffee at Starrybucks- or the gas station attendant pumping yer gas (handling yer filthy money)… has nothing more than a dust mask or bandana around their mouth and nose on… while these whiners are decked out in N95’s- Papr’s (personal air providers)- and all the high tech PPE China can send them. So yeh… just to be clear !

  2. I know several nurses that are burnt out and considering leaving the profession. The denial and non-cooperation from the RabidRight has been especially disheartening for them.

    1. Bob you have got that right. We who care for covid patients on a regular basis see the reality of how serious this situation actually is. Then you have yahoos like the dude above whose apparent only occupation is to sit in his armchair and troll news comment sites who have decided they know more than anyone who actually works in healthcare…the hoaxers/antimaskers/conspiracy theorists have been the most infuriating and frustrating part of this past 1+ year.

      1. Thank you winnie1 ! I was in front-line healthcare for 37 years. ER/ICU/PACU. The ” yahoos ” like flashsteve above are (still !!) clueless and will be the first ones to cry about the poor care they get in the ER when they’re waiting for a vent. Sadly, it’s a losing battle with these “theorists” but, from a colleague, Thank You for your work and keep up the good fight.

    2. But Bob- Doosh Kounty is decidedly Blue- as in the “rabidleft” ! Talk about denial and non-cooperation… those of us out in “rabidred” Crook were well on our way to “low risk status” until the flood gates to facebook construction sites were opened ! Talk about disheartening… what do we have to do with you bug infested Bendites- block the Tom McCall round-about out in Prineville and send you all back to where you came every morning ??? Buncha jerks !

    3. It is easy to understand, the risks and demands of critically ill patients 12 hr a day, followed by a community or region who denies and joins in the spread of a disease that risks patients lives as well as the lives of the caregivers. Stemming the spread is something everyone can do to help via wearing masked, washing their hands, washing or changing their masks, every day. Workers sense how futile it is if folks will not stop being super spreaders

  3. I’m sincerely thankful for everyone in the medical field who have been under so much pressure and stress and worry this last year. My doctor (who is a nurse) has been so professional and caring this last year, I could not have asked for more. Thank you all for everything you do, and everything you’ve been through. <3

    1. Awww… isn’t that sweet- a public display of appreciation towards a group of people who have remained employed- tried to use the “Panda-demic” to leverage more cash and benefits through strike threats- have seen their over-all work load decrease by as many as 1000 emergency room visits a week ! Oh yes- so much “worry-pressure-stress”… last I checked- people got into the profession out of love for the job- now we hear otherwise- and you think they need a crying towel… Sorry- but there are lot’s of folks on the front line- making just above minimum wage- or who have been completely put out of work- lost their homes- their careers- a year of their children’s schooling- this is o time for medical staff anywhere to start moaning about being over-worked and underpaid- suck it up water lilly’s- yer embarrassing yerselves with this kind of woe-is-me attempts to grab a headline or two- we saw what you were all about when you threatened to go on strike and leave your patients in limbo… imagine how stressful that was to regional families with a loved in need of care… buncha selfish whiners !

      1. Wow, ..Shishwish, you sound like the very definition of” curmudgeon”. I hope you’re vaccinated and wearing your mask around all those (your words) ” folks on the front line- making just above minimum wage- or who have been completely put out of work- lost their homes- their careers- a year of their children’s schooling”. If not, then you’re entire rant is pointless. By the way, water lilies are amazing creations, they grow up out of the dark, muddy depths, reach for the light and bring beauty and a bit of peace to the world. Pretty well sums up the majority of medical staff I’ve had the honor to work with.

        1. RF- I’ll keep my response to you short and sweet… the main point of my post was to criticize these self-proclaimed “burn-outs” for their PR disaster earlier this year- when they tried to take advantage of this China attack to secure a new union contract ! That is damn near blasphemy- If I tried to price gouge you outta 5 bucks for a 99 cent bottle of water during a natural disaster- you all would call for my head in a public execution…. but medical personnel get a pass for threatening to strike during a pandemic ??? Either they don’t believe in the hoax- or they got some serious morals- ethics- class issues !

            1. Which is why I said… “medical personnel”. I doubt that the general public cares either way… When you blare “St Charles” and “Strike” in the same sentence- they all get mashed together. I would also add- that I haven’t heard a single RN come out and “not support” those who chose to threaten to strike… all for one- one for all- “they are all in this together”… Remember ! Which results in damn little sympathy from me. You all have jobs- thousands of Oregonians would kill for- the Governor has shattered their dreams- kept their kids from school… yet you want my “understanding” for these spoiled brats ? Someone can go suck a lemon !

      2. How can you survive with so much hatred and animosity toward everyone who doesn’t share your opinions? And how can you be judgmental toward people who got put their lives and the lives of their families in danger in order to try to keep people like you healthy? Their jobs are made so much harder by the virus hoax crowd who become sick and then take their anger out on the people tasked with saving them. Your posts all follow a similar thread: Democrats and Progressives are evil, Everyone in Bend is horrible, Everyone who doesn’t think like you is ignorant. We get the point, your miserable. Are you trying to share your misery with the whole world to hear so they can be miserable too?

        1. How can you sit back day after day- till a whole year has passed- and have absolutely no concept of the long term damage already done to our state- the citizens- our laws- our culture- our way of life. This blatant disregard for our US Constitution is 10x’s more harmful than any 9/11 attack on our nation ! Let’s repeat it for the umpteenth time- the Virus came from China (go ahead say it- from China)- it’s a mild virus- has little to no negative effects on anyone under 65- it instead attacks those Americans with underlying conditions like diabetes- heart disease- stroke- dementia. Our nation is one of rugged individualists- not communist sympathizers- our US Declaration of Independence protects my right to life-liberty-and the pursuit of happiness…. Our US Constitution goes even further to detail how we all have civil liberties and specific rights… these are all 100% completely under attack- and you all seem to be OK with that… That is treasonous talk- and what Brown has done for over a year now is nothing short of a dictatorship- you should all be outraged- but instead- you cower in fear… You all need to take your weak carcasses out this Memorial Day and apologize to every veteran you see for letting them down on the home front ! This is disgraceful !

  4. As a front-line health care worker, I do not wish to “virtue signal,” but it is important in every way possible that I communicate to the wider public the absolute gravity of this pandemic.

    Sometimes I feel what it must be like for a soldier returning from a war and not being able to describe the horror encountered.

    We must get our act together as a society that–I know–is at heart caring and compassionate.

    The science has not failed us; the big screw-up has been the politicization of the pandemic. As with almost every ******* thing else, we have let ourselves be polarized.

    For the sake of our neighbors and fellow citizens, let’s act rationally to stop this virus in its tracks. Let’s get vaccinated and continue to exercise precautions; only then can we once and for all return to a semblance of normality. Otherwise we will continue to experience surges, unnecessary deaths, serious illness, and strain on our ability to provide care for all.

      1. Thanks for the referrals. It has always been my experience that we seem to get along best when we engage one-on-one with each other and are able to experience first hand our common humanity. Braver Angels and Unite.US–Yes!

        1. You’re welcome. Between that and the way Reddit’s firm subreddit rules. enforced by each sub’s moderators, combined with community moderation (up-down voting) that can sink trolls into invisibility and promote high-value discussion, I have hope for de-polarization and that the toxic blame, hate and personal attacks fomented by some on both/all sides here and many other places (Facebook for example) can be relegated to the level of attention it deserves.

    1. I will be civil. It should be noted that Rumble is the “alternative” YouTube that folks like Sebastian Gorka, Jim Jordan, Andy Biggs, and the Trump kids now use.

      Rumble policy is not to employ fact-checking labels with redirection to alternative sources, unlike Twitter, for example.

      So, viewer beware.

      1. Gee- wonder how they would have reported the Russia-Russia-Russia debacle ! The Covington High School Boys incident (that got CNN etal sued)- or Joe Biden’s miracle 80 million voter support- that to this day- nobody can explain ! Twitter bans free speech- more like Communist China or Cuba for sure.

  5. You are a stellar journalist, Barney Lerten. We do need your non-censorious policy. It makes for compelling reading. It really is up to us–your commenters–to make our arguments and observations clearly, concisely, and cleanly. That some of us can’t (and I plead guilty to all three, at times) is grounds for the rest of us to use kindness and humility to set our fellow news watchers straight. Thanks for all you do.

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