LAYTON, Utah — For about a year-and-a-half, ABC4 has been checking in with healthcare workers across Utah to see how they’re holding up during the pandemic. A Davis County nurse describes to ABC4 what it’s like working with COVID-19 patients while hospitalizations remain high.

“I think we constantly are, day to day, going through those ups and downs,” Chief Nursing Officer Chirs Johnson says while describing the current morale among staff at Davis Hospital and Medical Center. He tells ABC4 that COVID-19 patients who end up in the hospital’s intensive care unity are younger than they were a year ago, and they’re just as sick.

“We certainly celebrate when we’re able to see a young person go home from the ICU after a 40-day stay,” Johnson states. He explains that while the release of a young patient brings joy to all hospital staff, those young patients are also a big reason many healthcare workers are feeling helpless more than a year and a half into the pandemic.

He adds: “They (young patients) pass away from this. It’s very challenging to keep our emotions intact and also be able to continue to focus on doing what we can do to be able to help those around, in the hospital.”

This fall, the hospital began seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients. At times, Johnson says patients needing an ICU bed have to wait until one opens up.

He says at any given time, about 50 percent of the ICU is filled with COVID-19 patients. Johnson says these numbers looked similar last year prior to the vaccine becoming availalbe. He adds while not all COVID patients in the ICU are young, there there is a commonality with most. “It’s frustrating to see people that chose not to be vaccinated,” he states. “They get sick and then they can, they actually die, or their quality of life has been impacted for the rest of their lives.”

Johnson says when patients do die, many healthcare workers feel like they weren’t able to do their job. He says it is difficult to remember that many of these hospitalizations were preventable. “It really pulls at the heartstrings of all of us because not everything was done that could have been done, and it wasn’t a result of something we didn’t do, it was a result of what the patient chose,” Johnson says.

Johnson tells ABC4 that while hospital staff continue to work longer shifts and forego taking vacation time, watching people who are young and should be healthy become gravely ill as a result of COVID-19 has been one of the most difficult aspects of working in a hospital during the pandemic. He says, “I think that’s why we always go back to ‘People need to get vaccinated.’ With this, it is truly a serious disease that can kill you.”