Even before the pandemic, healthcare providers faced moral challenges in their work. But for many, working through the pandemic has exposed them to conditions that put them at an increased risk of moral injury and other mental health challenges.
Here are the most common challenges healthcare providers have faced during COVID-19.
- Repeatedly watching patients suffer and die from COVID-19.
- Taking on the role of family for patients who died alone, and not having time to process and grieve the deaths before continuing to care for others.
- Enforcing no-visitor policies while worrying about the risks of having visitors present.
- Feeling exhausted and burned out but unable to take time to rest.
- Feeling afraid of infection and spreading COVID-19 to family members and others.
- Family life is affected because of longer work hours and physical distancing.
- Feeling that deployment to COVID-19 units was not fair.
- Lack of employer understanding and not having enough resources to do their work.
- Feeling misunderstood, like they are living in a different world than non-healthcare workers.
- Loss of usual coping strategies, like access to gyms and socializing with loved ones.
What are common responses to stress and trauma?
Healthcare providers have faced many challenging situations during the pandemic. These events lead to an increased risk of developing mental health challenges that are common to experiencing trauma and prolonged stress:
- moral injury
- anxiety and panic attacks
- burnout and exhaustion
- post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI)
- substance use disorder
- suicidal thoughts or behaviours
- feeling numb or detached from other people, their activities, or their surroundings
- compassion fatigue
- emotional exhaustion
- functional impairments (i.e., poor concentration, decreased ability to perform daily activities, etc.)
This is not a complete list of responses to trauma and stress. There are several other indicators and symptoms associated with these experiences.