The pandemic has taken a devastating toll on nurses.
Last week, a nurse took their own life inside a South Bay hospital. Earlier this year, Stanford nurse Michael Odell walked out in the middle of his shift and never returned. His death has now inspired his friends to make a difference.
"We have to do something urgently to protect the mental health of nurses because it’s dire," nurses advocate Sarah Warren said. "We are losing people left and right."
Warren is now considered a seasoned nurse on many units across the nation.
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"Which is scary because I only have four years of experience," she said. "When I first started, nurses with 20 or 30 years of experience was the seasoned nurse."
Many veteran nurses are retiring, burned out from the stress of the pandemic. And in some tragic instances, nurses are taking their own lives.
San Francisco nurse Josh Paredes was a friend, colleague and roommate of Odell's.
"I am hearing stories from people, nurses, across this country who have lost colleagues during this pandemic to suicide – that have considered suicide themselves," Paredes said.
After Odell walked away in the middle of his shift in January, his car was found near the Dumbarton Bridge, and his body was located nearby.
On Wednesday, a Kaiser Santa Clara nurse took their own life at work during a shift.
In the aftermath of Odell's death, Paredes and other colleagues started a nonprofit, DontClockOut.org, a digital platform where nurses can find someone to talk to – usually another nurse.
"The goal is to match them with a peer who can follow them, meet them where they are and determine what their wellness goals are" Paredes said.
Paredes says nurses everywhere need more peer programs and mental health care. DontClockOut.org also is working as a conduit between mental health providers and nurses in need because the need now is greater than ever.
"The reality is nurses and other health care workers did not face this amount of death, this high acuity, until the pandemic and it’s a lot to process," Warren said.
After the nurse's death Wednesday, Kaiser said it will provide emotional support and resources for staff. Paredes hopes that kind of support becomes permanent for nurses everywhere.
"If front-line health care workers were truly regarded as heroes, we would have absolute world-class care when it comes to mental health," he said.
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.