National Doctor’s Day 2022: Understanding the challenges faced by doctors during the pandemic and how it is still ongoing with the new variants

More high-quality qualitative research is urgently required to better understand the experiences, needs, and preferences of the healthcare workforce, particularly frontline healthcare workers whose voices have yet to be effectively reflected.

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Many healthcare providers believed that news depictions of the epidemic were exacerbating families' fears. (File)

By Dr. Vivek Anand Padegal
 
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic created new obstacles for healthcare workers throughout the world. As the instances grew in 2021, the patients went from 30 to 350 in a month, putting a huge strain on hospitals, physicians, and patients. Healthcare personnel all throughout the world have responded to the challenge of treating COVID-19 patients, perhaps at a great personal sacrifice. There has been a growing awareness of the possible mental health impact of COVID-19 on frontline employees, as well as demands for psychological help for them. Aside from medical concerns, such as public health emergencies there is also a psychological impact on healthcare personnel, including professional stress, fear of infection, and a sense of helplessness. As a result of the pressure and stress, healthcare personnel experienced sleeplessness, loneliness, sleep disorders, suffering anxiety episodes as well as dissatisfaction. This is a result of a lack of understanding, environmental changes, and a fear of infection in both themselves and their families.

We often underestimate the bravery and dignity of millions of often low-wage, underappreciated, and vital health workers. However, little focus has been made on studying the impact of working on a pandemic from the perspective of a healthcare personnel, or what their thoughts are on assistance. Regardless, through it all, the health care providers who responded to the pandemic’s early alert – physicians, nurses, therapists, and so many more – have continued to fight to keep individuals and communities healthy. This dedication is accompanied by ongoing waves of death and pain, destructive disinformation, and deteriorating public confidence.
 
Challenged faced by Healthcare Professionals:

Most healthcare staff are mentally resilient professionals who have been taught and experienced in dealing with disease and death. However, prior to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the mental health and psychological well-being of this group had already been identified as a major healthcare issue, as evidenced by the rising incidence of stress, burnout, depression, drug and alcohol dependence, and suicide among all groups of health professionals in many countries. High-stress roles, combined with the unique demands of the COVID-19 crisis, witnessing the unexpected death of co-workers instilled a sense of powerlessness in many healthcare personnel, whereas the lack of acknowledgment from co-workers added to the psychological strain, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicidality. 
 
COVID Violence against physicians and healthcare professionals has also increased as a result of the Covid 19 health crisis, making them unanticipated targets. For the long-term safety of healthcare professionals, the present ordinance should be expanded and incorporated into existing laws as strict, permanent legislation that is properly enforced. 

Healthcare employees were also influenced by practical and environmental difficulties in their workplaces. While proper PPE alleviated most healthcare professionals’ anxieties, it was also observed how the PPE caused pain and interfered with communication. Healthcare professionals frequently reported increased workload, influencing their mental well-being. Increased hours and weekend shifts, greater time spent managing PPE, and increased paperwork were noted as regular sources of stress. This was exacerbated by staff shortages resulting in the need for employees to work overtime. 

One of the most stressful aspects for healthcare staff was the dual commitment they felt between delivering appropriate patient care and ensuring their own physical safety. Strict infection control methods meant that personnel were not always able to intervene as they desired, leaving them with the impression that they had fallen short of their customary levels of care.

Many healthcare providers believed that news depictions of the epidemic were exacerbating families’ fears. Such portrayals were also blamed for preventing individuals from visiting hospitals for other health concerns, harming public health, and causing financial problems for hospital departments.

Across all pandemics, a common narrative among healthcare professionals was one of uncertainty, which generated and sustained dread and anxiety. Knowledge was critical in reducing uncertainty, and many people sought knowledge, clarity, and consensus in order to achieve more assurance.
 
Way Forward:

Healthcare professionals’ experiences during COVID-19 are not unprecedented. We have the potential to learn from prior pandemics and improve support for frontline healthcare personnel. More high-quality qualitative research is urgently required to better understand the experiences, needs, and preferences of the healthcare workforce, particularly frontline healthcare workers whose voices have yet to be effectively reflected. We need to design clinical guidelines tailored to this workforce. This guideline should be prepared in collaboration and consultation with healthcare workers.

Interventions to prevent and treat mental health distress in healthcare professionals must be created and rigorously assessed in terms of timeliness, efficacy, and acceptability. We have a chance to reduce the negative mental health impact of COVID-19 and improve the long-term well-being of the global healthcare workforce.

Lastly the best way to prevent Healthcare stress and burnout is to try and prevent wave after wave becoming overwhelming by simple intervention to everyone’s benefit, continued precautions of social distancing especially during periods of high viral transmission, Masking still is probably extremely effective in blunting transmission and lastly and most importantly keeping up to date as possible on covid vaccinations.

(The author is Senior Consultant-Pulmonology, Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)

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