Hôtel-Dieu CEO opens up about 'mental and spiritual exhaustion' of COVID-19 pandemic

·2 min read
Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare president and CEO Janice Kaffer says it's important for leaders in health care to talk about exhaustion because it's so widely felt by those in the field.  (Sanjay Maru/CBC - image credit)
Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare president and CEO Janice Kaffer says it's important for leaders in health care to talk about exhaustion because it's so widely felt by those in the field. (Sanjay Maru/CBC - image credit)

The CEO of Windsor's Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare is sharing her experience with pandemic burnout in the hopes of encouraging others to take care of themselves.

Janice Kaffer said she was eating right and getting exercise in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but those habits went by the wayside.

"Eventually I hit the proverbial 'wall' and sleep became a memory, my fatigue turned to short tempered and I found myself struggling to find any joy in the day to day," she wrote in a recent post on LinkedIn.

After not taking a proper day off in more than eight months, Kaffer realized through her "fog of mental and spiritual exhaustion" that she needed to take some vacation, which she recently did.

"I'm a strong and capable woman who is freely admitting I'm not a superhero. I hope this post gives others the 'permission' to say out loud you feel that too," she wrote.

"We have months to go and we must take care of ourselves in order to take care of all the others that need us."

Kaffer's words have struck a chord online. The post has attracted dozens comments, some from others in health-care field who expressed similar sentiments about the devastating toll the pandemic has had on them personally.

Kaffer said it's important for leaders within the health-care field to talk about the exhaustion they're facing because it serves to validate what employees are experiencing.

"The frontline workers in health care have been through hell and back and you know, in many ways, it's a small group you can talk to about that," she said in an interview on CBC Radio's Windsor Morning.

The pandemic has sparked renewed concern over the mental wellbeing of health-care workers, who are seeing the toll of COVID-19 up close every day.

A recent survey found 96 per cent of licensed practical nurses polled in Ontario are finding their daily work "exponentially more stressful" due to COVID-19, and a third are considering leaving the field.

While her post was largely directed toward health-care workers, Kaffer said she's heard from people outside the field who are feeling burnout as well.

So what did Kaffer do on her recent week off? Kaffer admits it may sound silly, but she did Lego.

She came across sets of the blocks belonging to her grandkids and began to finish them, finding there was something "really satisfying" about it.

By the end of the week she had completed over 30, including some "vintage" ones dating back to when her son was a child.

"It was a very oddly satisfying week, taking the mess that was the big box of Legos and putting it into a nice, neat organized and playable situation for my grandchildren," she said.

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