Mental health challenges for healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic – Impact and management strategies
In December 2019, an outbreak of the novel coronavirus occurred in Wuhan, China. To date, this has spread to 192 countries across the globe, raising a number of significant challenges for health care workers.
As the health system prepares itself to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever that we safeguard the welfare of our medical workforce. The Ebola outbreak which occurred in West Africa in March 2014 and subsequently spread to neighbouring countries is a cautionary tale.
As the health system became inundated with patients, the resources needed to protect healthcare workers from infection became increasingly scarce. By the end of the [Ebola] outbreak, over 50% of infected healthcare workers died and, of those that survived, countless were left with post-traumatic stress disorder. Healthcare workers became martyrs; but the repercussions for patients and providers were catastrophic. [Diamond and Woskie, 2002]
Over the past decade, there has been an increasing awareness of the physical and psychological challenges doctors face.
Long and irregular hours, continuous performance evaluation and heavy workloads can all contribute to increased levels of stress and ultimately precipitate burnout. In the coming weeks and months, doctors will face numerous additional stressors. It is important that proactive efforts are made to address the impact of the pandemic on their mental health.