Psychological Impact of COVID-19 on Frontline Healthcare Workers

This editorial reflects the discussions prompted as a results of the virtual symposium ‘The Psychological Impact of COVID-19 on Frontline Healthcare Workers’, hosted by the varsity of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems, University College Dublin in March 2021. 

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This event served as a forum for international experts to present their research on the topic of the psychological impact of COVID-19 on frontline healthcare staff and to spotlight measures which will be of help. Prof. Neil Greenberg provided a keynote session, which illuminated the stressors faced by healthcare staff and therefore the importance of recognition and support in maintaining well-being.

The combination of pre-existing healthcare system pressures and therefore the demographic of frontline healthcare workers exposed staff within the UK and Ireland to the worst effects of COVID-19. 

It is our opinion that COVID 19 has substantially added to the disproportionate burden carried by women in health care. Specifically, healthcare workers are predominately young women, whom Greenberg highlighted are at greatest risk from the worst psychological state impacts of COVID-19. 

The implications of shouldering this unsustainable burden can include burnout and ultimately staff attrition. Even before the pandemic, healthcare systems struggled to retain and recruit staff. Now, the psychological impact of working through the pandemic has led many exhausted staff to actively consider leaving their career.

Overall, we are concerned about staff whose workloads may become beyond ‘usual’ or ‘safe’. it’s known that chronic excessive workloads are detrimental to the standard of patient care, contribute to increased workplace errors and negatively impact work satisfaction and staff retention. More specifically, our team has found that nurses working in medical care unit (ICU) experience particularly high levels of trauma-related distress, which if sufficiently severe can impact on job performance. 

Those with dependent children, or those that were required to quarantine demonstrated increased vulnerability during this COVID crisis. additionally , the occurrence of ethical injury (a profound cognitive and emotional response arising from events that violate one’s moral code) is ever more likely as individuals struggle with the question ‘did I do the proper thing?’.

It became evident during our virtual session that exposure to morally injurious events is more common during this pandemic. Worryingly, this is often strongly related to mental illnesses like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  You can also visit us for cvs covid testing information.

The frequent occurrence of ethical injury isn’t thanks to inappropriate healthcare delivery or shortfalls in care, but thanks to the intensity of the working environment, the exposure to death and therefore the changes to the work environment that has led to healthcare staff working in unfamiliar conditions.

Conversely, the virtual session reassured us that a lot of staff won’t experience moral injury, or any prolonged psychological state impacts, associated with their battlefront work during the COVID-19 pandemic. A minority will struggle, and early identification and access to occupationally focussed professional assistance will be essential. 

It is important to recollect that the majority healthcare workers thrive during a fast-paced critical environment and should are interested in performing on the frontline thanks to the dynamic nature of the work. a particular level of stress is, therefore, anticipated and staff often cope alright with this and indeed develop A level of natural resilience.

Alen Parker

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