How Hospitals Can Protect Allied Healthcare Professionals from Post-COVID-19 Mental Health Issues

Hero blog covid mental health
By:
Cross Country Allied
Posted:
October 07, 2020 04:43 AM (GMT-04:00)
Categories:
CCA Health

If you are an allied healthcare professional who has been working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s probably safe to say that your stress levels have increased over the past six months. Even if you haven’t worked directly with COVID-19 patients, the negative effects caused by fear of the unknown (and in this case, the known), economic uncertainty, disruption of normal activities and isolation from friends and family have taken their toll on all of us. But when it comes to healthcare providers, specifically, it is in your very nature to care about the health and wellbeing of those around you, both at work and at home. With threats to that health and wellbeing at a level we have not experienced previously during our lifetimes, your mental health is facing unprecedented challenges. Those challenges were recently addressed by a group of leading healthcare researchers.

After reviewing nearly 100 articles on the topic, a group of physicians and medical scholars decided to formulate an evidence-based approach to address the significant toll on clinician mental health during COVID-19 or similar public health crises. Their research indicated that pandemic-induced distress sometimes endured for years, and also that challenges presented by COVID-19 far surpassed those of previous pandemics. Healthcare workers, including allied healthcare professionals, have reported an increase in stress, depression, anxiety, insomnia, moral distress and even suicide since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The study concluded that in order to properly address the damage to clinician wellbeing, a framework of long-term, proactive support at individual, organizational and societal levels is required.

In all, seven themes were identified as key to protecting the mental health of clinicians during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as corresponding actions to help address them.

This includes a variety of self-care strategies clinicians can incorporate during particularly stressful times, both at work and at home. It was noted that self-care strategies should be included in clinician training due to their exceptional benefits.

  1. The Need for Resilience and Stress-Reduction Training
  2. This includes a variety of self-care strategies clinicians can incorporate during particularly stressful times, both at work and at home. It was noted that self-care strategies should be included in clinician training due to their exceptional benefits.

  3. Providing for Clinicians' Basic Needs
  4. Hospitals and healthcare facilities must ensure clinicians have access to adequate food, drink, rest, quarantine-appropriate housing if applicable, transportation, childcare and personal protective equipment at all times.

  5. The Importance of Specialized Training for Pandemic-Induced Changes in Job Roles
  6. The pandemic created an all-hands-on-deck work environment that forced many clinicians into caregiving roles they were unprepared for. Specialized training in areas including infection control, patient psychologic distress identification and cross-training in multiple clinical skills were all identified as ways to help relieve stress in a similar situation.

  7. Recognition and Clear Communication from Leadership
  8. Clear communication to clinicians and receiving recognition for their work was shown to improve both wellbeing and morale.

  9. Acknowledgment of and Strategies for Addressing Moral Injury
  10. Having to make decisions about which patients should receive care first and watching patients suffer and die alone inflicts clinicians with moral injury and can cause them to experience shame and guilt. It is suggested that resources be made available to educate clinicians about moral injury and provide support to address it.

  11. The Need for Peer and Social Support Interventions
  12. Because of social distancing and safety protocols, COVID-19 deprived many clinicians of the social support systems necessary to sustain wellbeing. Hospitals are encouraged to provide clinicians with social connection opportunities whenever possible.

  13. Normalization and Provision of Mental Health Support Programs
  14. Healthcare professionals are unlikely to seek psychological support when necessary, even when it is readily available. This can be addressed in a number of ways, including by having leadership model self-care behaviors, ensuring resources are well-publicized, establishing opportunities for clinicians to anonymously share mental health concerns and increased federal funding to care for affected clinicians.

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