Boston MedFlight workers explain stress at work during coronavirus pandemic

BEDFORD, Mass. — Boston MedFlight has been on the front lines of the pandemic since the deadly virus struck the state. The non-profit has helped transport nearly 1,500 of the sickest COVID patients in the past year. At the same time, they are working to take care of their own both physically and mentally.

Boston 25 tagged along with Boston MedFlight at their Bedford base to see how they are handling the pandemic and the stress of their work.

Tammi Wallace-Wood is a Nurse, and James Boomhower is a paramedic at Boston MedFlight.

“I mean, we are the people they call for the sickest of the sick,” said Wallace-Wood.

The two say every moment in their day can take a toll on them.

“It is pretty stressful to walk through the door and say, ‘Okay, I don’t know what the patient is going to be, but I’m going to attack it,’” said Boomhower.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only made this line of work more intense.

Boston MedFlight CEO Maura Hughes explained how their workload went up drastically during the pandemic.

“In the Spring, it was one COVID patient after the other, after the other, after the other, so we were doing 15, 16 COVID patients back to back every 24 hours,” said Hughes.

Years before the pandemic, Wallace-Wood and Boomhower helped launch Boston MedFlight’s Wing Team. Their mission: identify and help treat potential mental health issues on their team before they become a problem.

“Just help them recognize a lot of the things they are feeling are normal, and they are not isolated or weird,” said Wallace-Wood.

You have to remember every time this team gets a call for critical care ground or air transport, their job is about someone’s survival. “What I saw in myself was just a disengagement, withdrawal, and you start to feel isolated,” said Wallace-Wood.

Boomhower told Boston 25 it is stressful knowing that their job performance can play a significant role in the outcome of an emergency call.

“We know a lot of the things we do are very much thread the needle. We very much have to be precise, we have to be exact, we have to know what we are doing because we have a very minute margin of error,” said Boomhower.

The Wing Team is made up of Boston MedFlight team members specially trained to assist their co-workers with mental health and well-being issues. There are two trained members on every shift working on a volunteer basis.

“You take an already an incredibly stressful and difficult job, to begin with, and now you put COVID on top of that,” said Hughes.

The Wing Team knows this pandemic has made their work even more critical.

“The fact of the matter is we have to protect our staff not only their physical health but their mental health too, and that is where the wing team comes in,” said Hughes.

Boston MedFlight is a non-profit found in collaboration with some of the state’s biggest hospitals 36 years ago. They heavily rely on donations that the pandemic has made it a challenge to pursue through regular fundraising events.

To find out more about BostonMedFlight and how to donate, click here.

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