Like many other workplaces, the healthcare industry can often include many high-stress situations. Whether it be a medical emergency, tough patients, paperwork that needs to be completed, or long shifts, any combination of factors can lead to a buildup of stress, which many times results in mental health issues. Often, however, these problems get pushed to the side as individuals rush to successfully complete their shifts to provide for themselves and their families. When the pandemic hit, all these issues were further exacerbated by the stressors brought on by Covid-19, as shown in a formal study done on the challenges faced by healthcare professionals during this time.
The study included a larger sample of 1,000 individuals. At the same time, the final pool consisted of 90 healthcare professionals and 90 individuals who were age-matched to compare mental and physical health differences. The primary data collection mechanism was a survey, in which the questions asked were on topics such as Covid-19 anxiety and stress, depressive symptoms, health, and tiredness, among others (Pearman et al., 2020). Once these answers were analyzed, the results were generated, and they turned out as you would expect.
There were no significant differences in gender and other demographics regarding healthcare professionals vs. non-healthcare professionals. However, healthcare professionals had reported significantly higher “depressive symptoms, current anxiety, concern about their health, tiredness, constraint, and past and future appraisal of COVID-related stress” than their non-healthcare counterparts (Pearman et al., 2020). On the other hand, non-healthcare professionals reported much higher levels than healthcare professionals did when it came to proactive coping. This signaled that healthcare professionals were not taking proper measures to prevent the occurrence of mental health issues, most likely because they were occupied with other duties.
In an attempt to explain these findings, we can assume that healthcare professionals in the age of Covid-19 have the worries from before and new ones specific to covid to deal with. With the increased likelihood of catching covid, uncertainty surrounding obtaining PPE at the beginning of the pandemic, caring for both sick and dying covid patients amid the initial confusion, aiding the families of those who were ill, and dealing with the limitations of the healthcare system, it’s no wonder that healthcare professionals face unique mental well-being challenges.
The question then becomes how do we deal with this issue? Since this is such a specific situation, it’s difficult to know where to begin, but one group of researchers decided that the best avenue would be to compile all studies done on this topic or similar areas and extract common solutions or answers that would potentially work. Once all the papers were sorted out and their results filtered, this paper grouped various methods into three different stages at which steps could be taken.
The first stage was what preventative measures should be taken before a disease outbreak, foremost being a disease prevention program. Components of this program would include allocating staff to different areas of need, acquiring the necessary equipment, and establishing a mental health team for the healthcare professionals (Stuijfzand et al., 2020). Looking at the specific points they highlighted, it’s clear that the current Covid-19 response has played a vital part in some elements of this program.
The next stage involved what needed to be done during the disease outbreak, of which the recommended beginning is to identify those healthcare professionals who would be most at risk for mental health problems, including but not limited to those who had contact with infected patients, those who were involuntarily deployed to work with infected patients, those who didn’t have family close by or were single, etc. (Stuijfzand et al., 2020). Along with this screening, a campaign suggested informing healthcare professionals of the possibility that they might experience mental health problems and what their next steps should be if that were to occur. Resources managed by supervisors to support these individuals were also a crucial point, as support within the workplace would go a long way, especially given how often they are there and for such long periods. The third stage, the aftermath of the disease outbreak, consisted of frequent screenings to evaluate individuals for mental health issues, as problems could arise even much later after the epidemic. With measures like these in place, it’s hoped that healthcare professionals adequately care for themselves, even as they are caring for others.
Pearman, A., Hughes, M. K. L., Smith, E. L., & Neupert, S. D. (2020, August 13). Mental health challenges of United States healthcare professionals during COVID-19. Frontiers. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/ 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.02065/full
Stuijfzand, S., Deforges, C., Sandoz, V., Sajin, C.-T., Jaques, C., Elmers, J., & Horsch, A. (2020, August 12). Psychological impact of an epidemic/pandemic on the mental health of Healthcare Professionals: A Rapid Review. SpringerLink. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/ s12889-020-09322-z