▶ Watch Video: Kentucky health care workers fight COVID-19 amid staffing shortages statewide

Across rural Kentucky, life has largely gone back to normal but the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic still rages inside health care facilities—even in the small town of Owingsville. 

“The only thing that seems comparable and not even close is, you know, like a battlefield and we have been fighting now for two years,” Dr. Aaron Parker Banks told CBS News’ Kris Van Cleave. 

Banks is a family medicine doctor who sees about 40 patients a day. One-third of those patients are seen for COVID. Being a health care worker during the pandemic has taken an emotional toll on Banks. 

“Whenever I am at home, I try not to talk about what was going on. At any moment, if I start thinking about it, I cry. Um, thirty-five individuals in both counties here are no longer here,” he said.  

Banks has lost friends and family members to COVID—something he keeps in the back of his mind. 

“One of my mentors growing up who was like a mom to me, she lost her battle,” Banks said. 

St. Claire Health Care Doctor William Melahn said it’s been all hands on deck for two years. The toll on health care workers means there are fewer hands to help lift the load and he’s finding it hard to replace nurses and other medical staff. 

“Well, you can’t replace experience, so you have to rebuild,” Melahn said. “Every nurse is a critical frontline provider.”

Nurse Courtney Hollingsworth said balancing burnout is now just part of the job. She is determined to still make a difference, but she is worried there will not be enough health care workers to take care of patients. 

“I’m scared to death of the future. Before COVID started we needed more people to go into health care, there was not enough. But it is so scary,” Hollingsworth said.  

In a survey, last fall, as many as one in four Kentucky nurses said they were thinking about quitting within three months. Across the state, ICU beds are more than 87 percent full, even as cases are finally dropping.