LITTLE ROCK, Ark — It's been hard for health care workers the past few weeks, especially as COVID-19 cases continue to surge.
"It's been tough, I'm not gonna sugarcoat it," Jacob Thompson, an ICU respiratory therapist at UAMS, said. "The gowning in and gowning out, I don't know that there's any other better word for it other than just busy."
Thompson has seen the most recent surge firsthand, and it's been difficult.
"Seeing it over and over again, you know, it's tough," he said.
He's not the only one who feels that way. Other medical workers have previously discussed feeling burnt out with the new surge.
So, UAMS decided to try and change that.
"It's that outward symbol that people are thinking of you," Dr. Trenda Ray, Chief Nursing Officer, said. "They're supporting you and supporting the team, and appreciating all the work that they know that they're going through."
It's a simple gesture – just wear blue.
It started as just an idea from higher-ups at the hospital and grew from there.
"It really is that recognition that we're still in the fight, we haven't been able to step away," Ray said.
That recognition started early today, as workers started showing up for work.
"Where they had set up there's never normally anybody there, so I was surprised," Thompson said. "So I was surprised. At first I thought they may have been talking to somebody behind me or did I walk in on someone else coming in."
Today's celebrations do have a bittersweet side – they're reminiscent of early pandemic celebrations.
"It's a frustrating, sad time for us," Ray said. "So just to have some show of appreciation and recognition for what hospitals are going through right now, when it does often feel like the rest of our community is living a very different life."
So while it isn't easy to be a health care worker right now, UAMS is trying to make sure workers feel appreciated and remind them that they are frontline heroes – that the message from today carries on well beyond Friday.
"I hope that everyone sees that as a message of the struggle that we're going through in healthcare and that our communities come together," Ray said. "They do the things that we know are going to make a difference for us right now, we need it more than ever."