Healthcare workers around the world are playing an important role in slowing the rate of COVID-19 infection. Their selfless pursuit of battling the pandemic has earned them the admiration and support of the global population. But it comes with a cost. Round-the-clock work, tending to ill and dying patients and the uncertainty of COVID-19 – all of these can take a toll on the mental and emotional well-being of today’s healthcare workers.
Research shows that healthcare workers are not only under enormous strain as they battle the pandemic, but most of them are also concerned about getting COVID-19 themselves and passing it on to their families and loved ones.
Unlike other people, healthcare workers don’t have the time to unwind or enjoy a mental health break due to the demands of their job. When you’re trying to save or heal people from COVID-19, you don’t always have the time to walk in the park, binge-watch Netflix series or even schedule spa treatments.
Understanding the Stress Healthcare Workers Face
As COVID-19 goes on, healthcare workers are continually being applauded in newspapers and on the streets everywhere. It is appreciated, but it creates an underlying sense of duty. Although it’s incredible that healthcare workers are finally receiving the acknowledgment they deserve for their work, on a different level, it puts massive pressure on them to be super-human.
Everyone is trying to protect the sick and dying, but healthcare workers feel a heavier sense of responsibility due to the work they’re exposed to daily. As a result, they experience stress and anxiety with their job. Plus, the demands of their job consume much of their time, which means they don’t have the time to engage with family members and friends.
Fortunately, there are steps healthcare workers and their loved ones can take to help maintain their mental health and well-being during these trying times.
How Healthcare Workers Can Manage Their Expectations
The first step is accepting that anxiety and stress are common right now. COVID-19 drastically changed the normal practice of healthcare workers, which is a big leap for many people. Also, healthcare workers are constantly worried that they’ll catch the virus and pass it on to others. Even after COVID-19 is gone, the threat is always there and always imminent.
With all of these happening simultaneously, it’s natural to feel anxious – and healthcare workers need not feel ashamed for it. Stress and anxiety are common today so if you’re feeling these feelings, know that you’re not alone.
Other ways healthcare workers can manage their expectations include the following:
- Avoid downplaying your experience. Belittling what you’re going will not help you or your patients. Just because you’re at the front lines, it doesn’t mean you should automatically dismiss what you feel. Even if you’re not working in a COVID-19 clinic, COVID-19 impacted the way you practice medicine – and that’s no joke.
- It’s OK not to be OK. Just because you’re a healthcare worker, it doesn’t mean that you’re a superhero. You are human too; you’re just as fragile as everyone else. You don’t always respond perfectly. No one signed up for this pandemic; therefore, it’s OK to not feel OK.
- Seek support when you need it. Working in a hospital gives you more access to mental healthcare services. Seek support.
How to Support a Healthcare Worker During the Pandemic
If you have a friend or a loved one who is working in the healthcare industry, they need your support.
Consider the following ways you can do so:
- Be considerate. Start by following all public health guidelines. “Doing the right thing” is a big help to our struggling healthcare workers. By taking care of yourself, you reduce the burden experienced by our healthcare workers.
- Stay connected. If you’re a family member or a friend of a healthcare worker, always stay in touch with them. Healthcare workers are intentionally practicing social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you can’t physically see them, make an effort to regularly text, call or schedule video calls with these friends and families.
- Understand the stress they’re under. Healthcare workers faced many trials during the pandemic. They’re dealing with a huge number of patients, financial insecurities and more.
- Encourage them to seek support. There is still a stigma around healthcare workers experiencing mental health concerns. This stigma can prevent them from seeking the help they need. If a loved one working in the healthcare sector is experiencing mental health concerns, encourage them to seek the support that they need.
- Show them that you care. When you have the time, show your support by either visiting them or sending them a care package (complete with the essentials: comfort food, drinks and maybe some eucalyptus oil for relaxation).
Healthcare workers are vital in the world’s fight against COVID-19. Along the way, they will experience mental health concerns and when they do, support is essential.