When a patient is dying from COVID-19, nurse Molly Nixon will hold their hand. She will tell them they are loved. And, often, she will be the last person they see as they take their final breaths.

“I’m there with them as their last human contact; I’m the last person they see on this earth — and that is so unfair,” said Nixon, a registered nurse at Mercy Health in Muskegon.

Since March 21, the day the COVID-19 unit opened at her hospital, Nixon has been on the frontlines of a pandemic that has killed more than 220,000 Americans and more than 7,000 Michiganders — and could result in the deaths of as many as 400,000 people in the nation by the end of the year. For Nixon and many of the 1.7 million nurses working in Michigan’s hospitals, these past months have been a whirlwind of fear and anxiety, an onslaught of death and sickness and loneliness.

Depression drops among doctors, but future is unclear

During the pandemic, physicians nationwide have reported experiencing less depression than normal, potentially because their administrative work has been cut and because of the public’s vocal support for medical professionals, said Dr. Srijan Sen, associate vice president for health sciences research and the Frances and Kenneth Eisenberg Professor of Depression and Neurosciences at the University of Michigan.

Sen, who has been studying how stress and other mental health issues impact physicians for the past 13 years, said it’s a result that he wasn’t expecting. But he noted that despite the decline, doctors continue to face depression at far greater rates than the general public. And with the drop during the pandemic, Sen noted doctors are still experiencing rates of depression above that of the general population.

“The rates [of depression] coming down to what is still a high level—that being an improvement is a problem,” Sen said. “Pre-COVID, doctors felt they became doctors to work with patients and help them get better, but most of our time as physicians is spent documenting stuff on charts and working with administrators. We’re not spending most of our time with patients. That turned around a little in COVID.”

Read the full article at Crain's Detroit Business.