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Earlier this week, an editorial from Dr. Burks was published online by WRAL. In his message, Dr. Burks discusses the current Omicron surge and urges the public to remember the heroic work still being done by healthcare workers.

We are almost in the third year of the pandemic and the discouraging truth is that we are in the most challenging period we have faced.

Thanks to truly amazing scientific work and innovation, we have learned so much about how to care for patients who come to our hospitals with COVID-19. We have safe and effective vaccines, which have been readily available for nearly a full year. We have multiple effective treatments: both monoclonal antibody therapies that have been delivered to thousands of patients and – although they are currently in short supply – newly approved medications.

The challenge in this moment is how best to support our teammates, the dedicated professionals who have devoted their lives to caring for others and to helping their friends and neighbors become and stay healthy.

Even if we don’t hear it as much these days, they are still heroes. The heroes, however, are also human.

What they have experienced has been traumatic – both physically and emotionally exhausting. They have been there in the final moments as thousands have died from this virus. They have told patients who arrive with urgent needs that they need to wait in the Emergency Department because we have no beds available.

Angry patients have assaulted them both physically and verbally, treating them with a level of disrespect no one deserves.

Work is only half of the story for our teammates. This is also very personal. Like you, they face challenges with virtual schools and childcare.  They worry about the health of their parents and grandparents.

As these personal and professional challenges continue to mount, many of our teammates have moved well beyond stress and burnout. Some have decided to leave healthcare altogether. This is occurring across the nation, and the loss of this knowledge and experience from our healthcare workforce will have a ripple effect for years to come.

Right now, we face the highest number of COVID-positive inpatients we have seen in the pandemic, a number we expect to rise even further. We are caring for these patients with levels of staffing fluctuating daily due to the high numbers of teammates who are out on COVID related absences.

At times during the past few weeks, we have had more than 1,000 teammates out each day across our health care system. This affects the care we are able to deliver to all patients – not just those with COVID-19.

Early in the pandemic, the crisis was PPE and supplies. Now it is people.

As an organization, we are devoting our energy and resources to doing all we can to support those who have dedicated themselves to caring for others.

You can help support them as well by getting vaccinated and boosted. If your children are eligible, please have them vaccinated. Continue to practice the behaviors that we know help stop the spread of the virus.

Finally, please thank the people you know who are working so hard right now and treat them with the respect that they have more than earned.