DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — As hospitalizations continue to set records in North Carolina, the surge of COVID-19 cases is taking a toll on health care workers who have been battling this virus since March.

For 10 months now, health care workers have borne the burden of caring for the sickest victims of COVID-19.

“It’s just unimaginable. One day we are okay; the next day we’ve been tasked with this,” recalled Uma Kalagnanam, nurse manager of the COVID-19 unit at Duke Regional Hospital.

“Something that we as providers don’t always talk about is the anxiety and fear we have,” explained Dr. Julius Wilder, who works at Duke Hospital.

Even with the best possible safety protocols, he said the virus is frightening.

“Really the scariest thing for me is bringing it home to my family,” he added.

Health care workers say they try to maintain focus on patients.

“We have had to face our own fears and apprehensions and to kind of take a deep breath and say, ‘You know what, we’re here for our patients and we are going to take care of them to the best of our ability’,” said Kalagnanam, who added that her team members lean on each other to get through the tough times. 

The situation is even more difficult for many health care workers when they see people ignoring safety requirements.

“It’s all further complicated, or exacerbated I should say, by the rising numbers and how frustrated we’ve been in trying to get everyone to buy into the importance of social distancing and wearing masks,” said Wilder. “We are seeing on a day-to-day basis what is happening in the communities. We’re seeing the people dying.”

Vaccinations give health care workers hope, but they know they’ll be caring for many more COVID-19 patients before vaccines are available to everyone.

“We’re going to be strong in our process and protect each other,” vowed Kalagnanam. “And we’re going to put our patients first.”