Burned Out from Lingering Pandemic, Some on Frontlines Find Faith an Antidote


Respiratory therapist Nana Brefo got flashbacks when coronavirus variant surges started around the country, taking him back to the fear many health care workers felt as hospitals struggled to acquire and provide personal protective equipment against the virus.

Respiratory therapist Nana Brefo relies on his faith to cope with ongoing pandemic stress as a frontline medical worker. Courtesy of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Public Information Many medical workers like Brefo are exhausted from working through the

pandemic. With variants straining short-staffed facilities across the country, some on the frontlines are experiencing added physical, mental and emotional stress.

“This situation left me feeling tired and burnt out shift after shift,” Brefo said of the increased workload and staff limitations. As stress levels rose, he watched many of his colleagues at the hospital in Kitsap county where he works leave the medical field for good. He admitted, “I also contemplated leaving too.”

Nikki Arthur has also seen the toll pandemic-related stress has taken at the Bellingham medical facility where she works per-diem as a nurse. “Many nurses have retired early or abandoned the profession,” Arthur said. “My worry now is the shortage of nurses’ support staff.”

To keep them afloat, both Brefo and Arthur continue to rely on what pulled them out of despair in the early phases of the pandemic. They each credit their faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses for helping them and other health care workers in their religious community endure the ongoing toll of the pandemic.

Arthur appreciates Bible-based articles that help her to maintain a balanced outlook on life and “to be appreciative of each day and not long for the way things were in the past.”

Brefo leans on fellow believers for support and credits the encouragement he has received from them for helping him to remain patient and positive despite stressful experiences.

American psychological and psychiatric associations, while not advocating or endorsing any specific religion, acknowledge the role spirituality and religious faith can play in coping with distress and trauma.

Lawrence Onoda, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Mission Hills, California, noted some ways spirituality can help, including giving people “a positive hope and meaning toward life, comfort by looking for answers and strength from a higher power, and a collective shared experience of support and community.”

Brefo and Arthur also find joy in passing along to others what has helped them. Each of them regularly joins friends online to write or call people in the community with a message of hope from the Scriptures. “The ministry has been of great support,” Brefo said. He added that despite being tired at times, he gains a deep sense of satisfaction and well-being from speaking about his hope.

Both have found the resources on jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, to be extremely helpful, with its collection of practical articles like “How to Beat Pandemic Fatigue” and Help for Hospital Workers Who Are Coping With Stress as well as short, comforting videos such as “The Resurrection – Soon a Reality.”

“There have been many timely articles,” Brefo said. “There were even articles especially made for healthcare workers that really helped me.”