LONDON, ONT. -- A pair of recent studies looking at how health-care workers are navigating the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic show rising anxiety.

The findings from a recent poll on how Ontario’s registered practical nurses (RPNs) are coping with the second wave of COVID-19 are shocking.

"Seventy-one per cent are experiencing a breaking point, and I know what a breaking point looks like. It is devastation, at a time when you can't be devastated," says the CEO of the Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario (WeRPN), Dianne Martin.

What's even more alarming, is the lack of support for these nurses. 

The study found that 83 per cent of nurses felt like their mental health has been adversely affected by their work, and 67 per cent say they don’t have adequate mental health support to face the second wave of COVID-19.

"Seeing people die in a manner that is very hard to watch, you can't un-see that," says Martin.

"Most registered practical nurses, do not have full-time jobs with full-time benefits - the ability to afford the kind of help that you need to process what you've experienced - so that you can continue to provide the care that you are providing, just isn’t within their reach, we failed them."

A national study conducted by Mental Health Research Canada found that 28 per cent of front-line workers are experiencing anxiety. 

Among that group are paramedics, who say the pandemic has taken a toll on their mental health.

"One of the biggest concerns for first responders is – am I going to bring it home to my family," said Steve Cook, Peer Support Program lead for Middlesex London Paramedic Service.

Cook says one of the ways they are providing support to paramedics is through a federal program called Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR).

"It's a program geared toward mental health and anti-stigma against mental health. It's a great program, all the staff have it, and I think that is part of our success."

Meantime, Martin hopes that policymakers can help make a difference and share pathways to support registered practical nurses.

"When we have these mental health challenges showing up in our mental health professionals, this is not a sign…of a lack of character. This is a sign of a situation that is very, almost unbelievable in what it's requiring from our health care workers."