HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
19 August 2020
Healthcare professionals who are diagnosing, treating, and caring for patients with or suspected of having COVID-19 are at risk of psychological distress as a result of their work.
What are healthcare workers experiencing?
A study of healthcare workers in China* in 2019 found the following:
- 4% reported experiencing symptoms of depression
- 6% reported symptoms of anxiety
- 34% experienced insomnia
- 5% reported psychological distress
This shows that the mental health impact cannot be ignored. If these symptoms are experienced over time without being managed, they can lead to longer-term mental health issues.
Some challenges you may be facing include:
- Overwhelming workload
- Inadequate personal protective equipment
- Widespread media coverage putting your work under the spotlight
- Not having enough resources and equipment for treatments
- Having to make difficult decisions that challenge your moral or ethical code (moral injury)
Having to make extremely difficult decisions such as:
- allocating scarce resources to some patients and not to others who are equally needy
- balancing your own physical and mental health needs with those of patients
- aligning your needs and duty to patients with those of family and friends
- providing care to severely unwell patients with constrained or inadequate resources
- Feeling unsupported
- Feeling uncertain, vulnerable, or at a loss of control
- Afraid of contracting the virus and infecting family, friends, and colleagues
- Concern over your health and at times, a sense of personal danger
It is normal to feel under pressure at a time such as this.
Feelings of stress or other overwhelming emotions do not reflect negatively on your ability to do your work.
Do not feel guilty or question your commitment towards your profession.
You might also find these self-care tips and how to make a self-soothing kit helpful.
*Lai, J., Ma, S., Wang, Y., Cai, Z., Hu, J., Wei, N., Wu, J., Du, H., Chen, T., Li, R., Tan, H., Kang, L., Yao, L., Huang, M., Wang, H., Wang, G., Liu, Z. & Hu, S. 2020. Factors Associated With Mental Health Outcomes Among Health Care Workers Exposed to Coronavirus Disease 2019. JAMA Network Open, 3:3 (1-12). Available: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2763229