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New tech measures health care workers pandemic stress

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 1:51 PM CDT
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(CBS) - Health care workers have been fighting the COVID pandemic on the frontlines for more than a year and a half. Doctors Robert Hirten and Zahi Fayad at Mount Sinai in New York are studying the psychological effects of the pandemic on front line health care workers in what they call the Warrior Watch study.

Doctors and nurses wear Apple Watches to monitor their heartrate and fill out surveys to measure stress, resilience, emotional support, and quality of life. “Health care workers, we’re finding, have increased rates of burnout, anxiety, are at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder and have ongoing long-term effects from the stress,” says Dr. Hirten.

They also found health care workers who could overcome stress and had strong emotional support were protected. “There are multiple ways you could build resilience. It all relates to lifestyle: your exercise, improve your sleep patterns, and learn how to do breathing exercises to be able to deal with things when they come to face you,” according to Dr. Fayad.

Dr. James Marion is a gastroenterologist. But when the first wave of COVID devastated New York, he was asked to help the sickest patients. “They wanted me to run a 14-bed COVID unit. The hospital was filling up pretty rapidly,” he says. Dr. Marion was one of thousands of health care workers coping with stress of long hours, PPE shortages, and the worry of catching COVID. “I think my biggest fear was that I’d bring it home to my family,” he says.

Dr. Marion took part in the research and says he’s motivated to improve his mental and physical health. “It has totally changed my relationship with exercise and with staying fit. I was running before, but now I’m doing pacing, I’m doing interval training,” he says. And that’s helping his body and mind.

Researchers say this study also highlights that wearable devices like the Apple Watch could be used to monitor and catch other health issues early.

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