We all have acknowledged that our essential healthcare professionals have been true heros in how they have performed during this COVID-19 pandemic. They have taken huge risks and have compromised the health of not only themselves but their families as well. They have worked extremely long and intense hours. They have watched individuals suffer with excruciating pain, including those who have not survived. But they also have saved thousands of lives! All of this can be stressful and traumatizing. We are quick to express words of appreciation but have we really provided the type of support that is needed in such a stressful occupation?
A recent article published in Newstimes by Edward Volpintesta features programs in some of our healthcare systems that are designed to alleviate the stress of healthcare workers. Here are some quotes from this article:
The long hours and fatigue, and the fear of coming down with COVID-19 can bring on anxiety and depression — and even in some cases lead to suicide.
Another contributing factor is compassion fatigue — the sheer emotional exhaustion that results from caring for and consoling sick patients, some of whom die. Not to mention, comforting their families and loved ones.
The combination of these factors can lead to burnout. In general terms, burnout is a sense of being overwhelmed and overextended in one’s job. Besides anxiety and depression, it is often accompanied by cynicism and anger and hopelessness.
Most healthcare workers simply accept the stresses and responsibilities of caring for patients as routine. Even when the stresses cause emotional or physical problems that interfere with their professional and personal lives, they are often reluctant to seek help because of the stigma attached to getting help for anxiety or depression.
The article continues to describe some of the programs and support systems for healthcare workers that are designed to alleviate the stress and trauma while providing a place for processing and help for our healthcare professionals. I believe these types of programs will be essential as a normal part of any healthcare system and should be a priority for our investment and support as a society dealing with a global pandemic.
Once again, I thank all of our essential workers for all they do for us. We are greatly indebted to them and owe them the kind of support they need while they care for the needs of so many of our friends and family members who have contracted COVID-19.