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Healthcare Workers and COVID-19: Supporting Those Who Support Us

  • Category: Blog
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  • Written By: Kirby Medical Center

We can do this

For many of us, the COVID-19 pandemic can be described in a variety of ways, but one word I think we can all agree on is exhausting. Now, as we move further into winter with colder temps, isolation, and COVID-19 on the rise, it can be more and more difficult to find the positives around us, especially for those working in the healthcare field. The healthcare workers in this country and across the globe have been put to the test in more ways than one, from working long hours to being isolated from family and losing an increased number of people they care for.

Anish Agarwal, Assistant Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, says, “Research has demonstrated the emotional highs and lows of dealing with disasters are significant and long-lasting. Each wave brings about new record highs and uncertainty as to when these spikes will peak. These waves can act as triggers for stress, anxiety, and depression in the workforce and build upon mental health strain. These strains impact the individuals and the care they provide.”

This pandemic has taken its toll both physically and mentally on those taking care of others, but who is taking care of them? What can we do to help support and encourage them during this trying time?

There are several ways we can help, and it begins with this question, how are you feeling? That question may seem simple, but it is an important step in opening the door for those who spend so much of their time focused on others to begin thinking of themselves and their feelings. They may not respond with a profound statement right away, but it allows them to know that you are there and that someone is concerned about how they are doing during these trying times.

Another great way to support healthcare workers is to encourage self-care. Self-care can be done in a variety of ways and is unique to everyone. Some examples of self-care techniques include, daily deep breathing exercises, designating time each day to do something you enjoy such as taking a bath or shower to unwind from the day, or writing in your journal. Self-care should be scheduled into your calendar just like any other appointment and is a vital part of your mental health. It is important for healthcare workers to feel comfortable taking care of themselves and knowing that by doing so they are then able to take care of others when needed.

According to a new survey conducted by Mental Health America, 93% of healthcare workers were experiencing stress; 86% reported experiencing anxiety; 77% reported frustration; 76% reported exhaustion and burnout, and 75% said they were overwhelmed. Of those same people, more than 40% stated they did not feel they had adequate emotional support. This brings us to the last and most important way we can support those working in healthcare, by helping to break down the stigmas surrounding mental health and encouraging those who need help to seek it. This can be done in a variety of ways, including, building local resource lists of mental health providers, emotional support groups, and hotlines. Doing daily check-ins with those most vulnerable and knowing the signs and symptoms to look for when someone is in crisis is also important to this process. Educating healthcare workers and those around them on when to seek help and encouraging them to reach out to those in the mental health field to learn more and seek support.

In a time when so much uncertainty surrounds us and those working the frontlines are exhausted, frustrated, and may not have much left to give, we must show them the love and support they deserve. It is time for us to help lighten their load and do our part to ensure they know they are not alone in this fight, and that we are here fighting right alongside them.

This article was submitted by Kirby Medical Center Senior Life Solutions

Kirby Senior Life Solutions is an intensive outpatient group therapy program designed to meet the unique needs of senior adults living with symptoms of age-related depression or anxiety, dealing with difficult life transitions, a recent health diagnosis, or the loss of a loved one. Following an individual assessment, patients meet up to three times per week in a supportive, encouraging group setting. Referrals to the program can be made by anyone, including a patient’s physician, family member, self-referrals, or another healthcare professional. For more information, call 217-817-8525 or visit Senior Life Solutions. The program is located across the street from Kirby Medical Center at 2 Sage Crossing Boulevard, Suite B, Monticello Illinois, 61856.

Senior Life Solutions