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The Impact of COVID-19 on Healthcare Workers
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The Impact of COVID-19 on Healthcare Workers

COVID-19 has pushed doctors and health-care professionals to their professional limitations, taking a toll on their health and well-being in the process

Post by on Sunday, January 23, 2022

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Integrity, compassion, altruism, continuous improvement, excellence, working in partnership—these are the values of medical professionalism, but much of the thinking around medical professionalism remains rooted in an idealised, traditional,and paternalistic foundation of self-sacrifice and service to humanity, in which the perceived good doctor prioritises the care of their patient over all else. The mental and physical strains caused by living up to this standard can aggravate many of the factors that influence physician wellbeing, including balancing home and work life. When other aspects of professionalism, such as autonomy, have been eroded, are we left with a shell of values that have become harmful to doctors and their wellbeing?


The epidemic has put significant strain on already overburdened, understaffed, and under-resourced health-care systems.COVID-19 has pushed doctors and health-care professionals to their professional limitations, taking a toll on their health and well-being in the process. During the pandemics, core concepts of medical professionalism have been questioned, including the importance of patient welfare, patient autonomy, and social justice. Many doctors throughout the world have had to adapt their practises, prioritising patient care and making tough decisions based on limited resources, such as delaying and withdrawing potentially life-saving medications. Doctors have had to strike a balance between their own danger and their responsibility to care for patients, as well as professional vs caring obligations for family members in high-risk groups.


More than 300,000 health-care professionals in 79 countries have been infected with COVID-19, with over 7000 deaths and many more suffering from stress, burnout, and moral harm.


Taking a look back over the last few months, several factors may have exacerbated occupational fatigue and burnout among doctors and other associated staff, including the anticipated, and now experienced, overload of the healthcare system's capacity to respond to the pandemic, as well as the high risk posed to front-line healthcare workers and their families due to constant exposure. Doctors' discomfort is caused by a variety of circumstances, including feelings of vulnerability or lack of control, concerns about their own health, the spread of the infection to their family and others, and isolation. They also have to deal with severely unwell patients who are more likely to develop complications and have a higher fatality rate.


There are some cultural attitudes that have continually underinvested in health-care professionals by pressuring doctors to accomplish more at the expense of their own health. The COVID-19 epidemic has exacerbated these problems. This pandemic, together with the escalating health crisis, posed a number of physiological and psychological issues for healthcare personnel. It increased doctors' workload and stress, as well as resulting in violent attacks. HCWs are willing to put their lives and the health of their families on the line to rescue others despite having little finances and, in some cases, no equipment or medication. Doctors are frequently confronted by enraged patients and families, particularly when counselling them about their COVID-19 diagnosis or informing them that a patient has died. Often some members of the patient’s family dispute the diagnosis and accuse doctors of faking the results. During frenzied assaults, they use physical and verbal aggression against physicians, ruin wards and machinery, and forcibly invade doctors' rest rooms. It's no surprise that there's a high percentage of stress and burnout at work. To better secure and defend our medical staff in the future, a system-level approach to addressing the difficulties that COVID-19 has generated is urgently needed.


Physicians and people under their care will benefit from a rebuilt professionalism that incorporates the agendas of right to health, equality, social justice, diversity and inclusion, physician wellness, and workforce planning. As an inherent part of professionalism and central to patient care, such methods must emphasise organisational culture and worker well-being. Optimising the effectiveness of health systems, improving patient experience, driving population health, and lowering costs may all be achieved through improving clinicians' working life.


Several well-being initiatives for doctors were well-received at COVID-19. They must, however, be supplemented with organisational initiatives such as flexible working arrangements, improved cooperation, administrative load reduction, and effective technology use. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemics, health workers must be properly supported. The medical profession, health-care institutions, and society all have a role in ensuring that this assistance is available.


(The Authors are Associated with Advanced Centre for Human Genetics SKIMS Soura. Feedback: mansoorshafi21@gmail.com)

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