Protecting the wellbeing of the health workforce is key to providing quality care during a pandemic, say experts.
A study by researchers from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland published in the journal BMC Public Health (August 2020) shows that exposed health care professionals working with patients during an epidemic or pandemic are at heightened risk of mental health problems – both in the short and longer term.
Clinicians are particularly vulnerable to psychological distress, insomnia, alcohol or drug misuse, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, burnout and anger, they say.
Their analysis was based on evidence from healthcare professionals working during the 2002–2004 SARSand the 2014 Ebola outbreaks.
Dr Anita MY Goh and Professor Briony Dow, from the National Ageing Institute at the University of Melbourne, say these lessons need to be applied to the aged care workforce.
“We need to keep aged care staff safe – safe from infection, but also safe from the psychological effects of caring for people in the midst of a highly communicable global pandemic.
“Wellbeing for the aged care workforce is key to prevent burnout, fatigue, and for workers to provide quality care, particularly with the additional stress and pressures they face in providing care during this pandemic.
“Just as we don, doff, and monitor our physical PPE, we need to check our and others’ ‘psychological PPE’,” they wrote in the Melbourne academic journal Pursuit.
‘Just as we don, doff, and monitor our physical PPE, we need to check our and others’ “psychological PPE”.’