El Paso nurse battles pandemic burnout with spirituality, shares personal story

El Paso News

Areli Gonzalez Perez

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Alongside thousands of healthcare workers, a local critical care nurse selflessly stepped up to meet the challenge of the COVID-19 threat in our community and found her faith to be a lifeline.

Areli Gonzalez Perez and her husband managed to avoid contracting the virus, however her aunt was hospitalized with a severe case in the facility where she worked. Unfortunately, her aunt did not make it.

Gonzalez Perez was able to be at her aunt’s bedside and share audio recordings and video calls from their family the night she passed away.

“That night, it sticks out in my memories,” Gonzalez Perez said. “I’ve dealt with patients expiring, and it hurts. But this time, it hit me really, really hard.”

Amid the chaos and desperation, Gonzalez Perez credits Bible reading, prayer, and the practical
assistance of others in helping her cope.

“If it wasn’t for all the help that we have from the jw.org website, the virtual congregation meetings, and the love and support that I got from my family and friends, I don’t know what I would have done,” she said.

In the year that has followed, other frontline medical workers in Gonzalez Perez’s religious
community have also found that maintaining their spiritual focus was critical in their battle through the
mental and emotional toll caused by the pandemic.

“What healthcare workers are experiencing is akin to domestic combat,” said Andrew J. Smith, Ph.D., director
of the University of Utah Health Occupational Trauma Program at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute.

A study conducted by Smith’s group discovered that more than half of the doctors, nurses, and emergency
responders providing COVID-19 care could be at risk for one or more mental health problems. This includes
acute traumatic stress, depression, and anxiety.

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

For Gonzalez Perez, such support and community helped her through her own struggles working on the COVID-19 floor. “There were days I would cry. I didn’t want to go back to work to see more patients suffer,” she said.

During that time, Gonzalez Perez joined virtual ministry groups and wrote letters with positive Bible
messages to her emotionally-exhausted colleagues. She also continued her regular schedule of meeting
twice a week with her Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation online. She said all of this helped her shift her focus from how she was feeling.

If you’re interested in getting more information on gaining comfort through the scriptures, visit https://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/peace-happiness/real-hope-future-bible-promises/.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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