Psychological Impact of a Pandemic for Healthcare Professionals

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Many people who have never come in contact with the novel coronavirus – or know someone who got infected – are having a hard time coping with the current global situation. The fact that there is a dangerous virus that has claimed more than a million lives in less than six months has a lot of people scared, depressed, and anxious.

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If there is a valuable lesson to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic it’s that there is nothing more important than your health. It’s also better to prevent problems than treat them. One thing you can do to keep your overall health in check is to get a Medicare Advantage plan that provides you with many benefits that the standard coverage doesn’t offer.

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Just the thought of a novel virus spreading throughout different communities can be incredibly frightening to regular people, but this is something that healthcare professionals witness firsthand. In fact, they have to treat countless patients that come in with various symptoms and may need advanced treatment.

As was the case with SARS and MERS, the novel coronavirus is a respiratory virus that makes it hard for infected patients to breathe. In some cases, patients need to be put on ventilators to increase their chance of survival. Unfortunately, a big fraction of the people who require ventilation die. To make things worse, they can’t be surrounded by their family because of how transmissible COVID-19 is. The patients usually spend their last moments alive in the company of a healthcare professional.

The Negative Impact of a Pandemic on Healthcare Professionals

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There are a number of different things that happen during pandemics that can negatively impact the mental health of healthcare professionals. In a study published in the Psychiatry Research journal, it was found that there are several mental health problems that were common among healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the most common problems that people who work with COVID-19 patients experience include depression, anxiety, and stress. Multiple factors have an impact on the development of these mental health issues. For instance, healthcare professionals have to take care of more patients than usual. Dealing with increased work demands means that you don’t have enough time to spend with your friends and family.

Having very little free time to relax and socialize can significantly increase your stress and make you develop anxiety. On the other hand, the fact that you’re dealing with so much death on a daily basis may cause insomnia and depression. The psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare workers was the main subject of a recent study published in China.

From a cross-sectional, web-based survey, researchers found that doctors and nurses in China were facing a lot of pressure when working with patients infected with the novel coronavirus. Some of the factors that lead to this excessive pressure include overwork, major lifestyle changes, less social support, lack of sleep, insufficient experience in treating the disease, negative feedback from patients, and inadequate protection.

In this study, it was ultimately concluded that nurses, technicians, medical residents, and physicians that worked during the COVID-19 pandemic in China had developed serious mental health problems. Out of every healthcare professional who took part in the web-based survey, 46% had developed anxiety. Similarly, more than 44% got diagnosed with depression. On the other hand, almost 29% of healthcare professionals developed insomnia.

These aren’t the only mental health disorders that affect doctors, nurses, and technicians during a pandemic. There is also the very serious threat of developing post-traumatic stress disorder. The frequent sight of death increases the risk of PTSD, along with uncertainty for the future. Unfortunately, healthcare workers have to deal with more than seeing their patients pass away. They also witness many of their colleagues to share the same fate.

PTSD was a huge problem for doctors and nurses who treated patients in areas heavily affected by SARS and MERS. It was estimated that around 12% of medical personnel that worked during the most intense phases of SARS and MERS outbreaks experienced PTSD symptoms more than a year later.

One of the main things that leave healthcare professionals traumatized is that they don’t know whether they might be the next to get infected or lose their lives. According to research conducted in Mexico, there are a lot of nurses and doctors who fear that an asymptomatic patient may be admitted to the hospital and unknowingly spread the disease among staff and patients.

What’s interesting is that despite what they have to deal with, most healthcare workers believe they would benefit more from social support and increased sleep than from professional psychological help. The problem is that most countries simply don’t have enough physicians, nurses, and technicians to comfortably handle pandemics. That’s why medical workers have to sacrifice nearly all of their free time so that the novel coronavirus doesn’t break healthcare systems.

Violence Against Healthcare Professionals During a Pandemic

Treating patients during a pandemic can lead to excessive stress and several serious mental health problems among healthcare workers. This would happen even if every patient admitted behaved properly. Unfortunately, this is far from the reality that nurses and doctors across the globe have to deal with. There have been countless recorded instances of patients being violent towards healthcare professionals in many different countries.

There are a number of reasons why patients can become hostile. Some don’t believe that the virus is real and refuse to cooperate when the doctor is explaining what is happening to them or the nurse is giving them their treatment. There have also been instances in which patients became hostile because they waited a long time to get tested for COVID-19.

Some doctors even got attacked by family members of deceased patients infected by the novel coronavirus because they couldn’t come and see them before they passed away. Many governments have come up with solutions to help protect healthcare workers and increase security at hospitals. Nevertheless, the average doctor and nurse working during the COVID-19 pandemic have a risk of suffering physical injuries on the job.

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