To say that Florida’s doctors, nurses and other frontline healthcare workers are experiencing extreme stress during the coronavirus pandemic is an understatement. They are working long shifts, watching patients and colleagues become seriously ill and end up in ICU, putting themselves in harm’s way and dealing with crisis situations they are not prepared to handle.
Given this nerve-wracking, dire situation, doctors and nurses could be experiencing a mixture of strong emotions: anger at being unprepared and under-resourced, guilt for not being able to save people and for possibly bringing the disease home, grief from witnessing so many people dying without any loved ones with them and desperation over the seemingly unending wave of new COVID-19 patients. Without time to process these emotions, these hard-working, dedicated nurses and doctors could become traumatized and suffer socially, psychologically, physically and spiritually.
Some mental health experts have, in fact, compared the fight against COVID-19 to battlefield medicine. In both situations, medical personnel have “desperate and unrelenting encounters with patients, an environment of high personal risk, an unseen lethal enemy, extreme physical and mental fatigue, inadequate resources and unending accumulations of the dead.”
Suggestions for Managing Stress
In the face of such overwhelming problems, the typical suggestions for managing stress might not seem very helpful. However, it is important to remember that taking time to take care of yourself during this crisis can help you stay focused, do a better job caring for patients and avoid the damaging effects of trauma.
To combat fatigue, stress and the potential for long-lasting trauma, mental health experts suggest staying informed, taking time to take care of yourself, and seeking support from your coworkers, managers, families, and communities.
It can be very helpful to know how and to what extent COVID-19 is spreading in your community and how your organization and work team are planning on dealing with the spread of the virus. Understanding changes in procedures and new protocol can be especially helpful in combatting stress by giving you a sense of stability and control.
In contrast, too much information or too much attention to the media can give you a distorted sense of reality and amplify fears and stress levels. Many media outlets sensationalize stories or dwell on frightening details that can affect your perception of the real situation and increase your stress level.
Take Time to Take Care of Yourself
Getting enough sleep and eating healthy amounts of nutritious foods are always crucial to your well-being. During this time of extreme stress, they are even more necessary to avoid burnout, breakdown and long-term trauma. Mental health experts also recommend exercising, taking walks outside, meditating – engaging in whatever health-promoting activity works to help you relax.
Talking to someone about your what you’re going through and what you’re feeling can be the best remedy for stress and anxiety. Family members may be helpful and supportive, but sharing your thoughts and feelings with coworkers might be even more beneficial, since they are probably feeling some of the same things you are. Hospital chaplains, your organization’s Employee Assistance Program, and professional therapists are also recommended to help you handle stress in the moment and prevent your developing post-traumatic stress disorder down the road.
Take Care Now and Get Legal Help When You Need It
If you’re ever in a situation where you need help from an experienced healthcare attorney, please know you can rely on Attorney Jonathan Rose for strong representation and expertise in Florida medical license defense for doctors and Florida license defense for nurses.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2020, April 1). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Stress and coping.
Coronavirus: Why healthcare workers are at risk of moral injury. (2020, April 6). BBC News.
Lai, J., Ma ,S., Wang, Y., et al. (2020). Factors associated with mental health outcomes among health care workers exposed to coronavirus disease 2019. JAMA Network Open.
Law, T. (2020 April 10). ‘We carry that burden.’ Medical workers fighting COVID-19 are facing a mental health crisis. Time.