By Shirley Quach, RRT CRE HBSc

Research and reporting on the pathophysiology, clinical diagnosis and management of Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) has garnered most of the attention over the last few months. Much of the attention has been on researching and reporting the pathophysiology, clinical diagnosis, management and outcomes of COVID-19.  The focus of these investigations to understand COVID-19 is necessary and important; however, attention should be given to the mental health and well-being of healthcare professionals (HCP) working with and caring for patients with COVID-19 (Ayanian, 2020; Shanafelt, Ripp & Trockel, 2020). COVID-19 has forced many countries to enforce physical distancing and appropriate quarantining measures to minimize the spread of disease (Shanafelt, Ripp, & Trockel, 2020). On top of these social stressors, HCPs are also subjected to the mental and physical exhaustion from providing care to patients with known or suspected COVID-19. This is why it is important to explore the mental health of HCPs during these circumstances, and build resilience against post-traumatic stress disorders.

The literature suggests that HCPs working through the previous SARS crisis were more likely to develop symptoms of insomnia, depression and anxiety from excessive stress (Ayanian, 2020; Spoorthy, Pratapa & Mahant, 2020). HCPs are considered to be vulnerable to the psychological impacts of COVID-19 due to the exhaustion of caring for acutely ill patients, their coworkers, and the risk of spreading the virus to their loved ones (Ayanian, 2020; Shanafelt, Ripp, & Trockel, 2020). This highlights the importance of understanding and addressing the needs of HCPs under demanding and unprecedented circumstances (Ayanian, 2020).

Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRT) are heavily involved in the direct care of COVID-19 patients. Recent studies, including a systematic, meta-analysis review, revealed that HCPs including RRTs are especially vulnerable to depression, anxiety and insomnia (Pappa et al., 2020; Spoorthy, Pratapa & Mahant, 2020). Psychological assessment and support are necessary to maintain HCPs’ confidence and work satisfaction (Spoorthy, Pratapa & Mahant, 2020; Wu, Styra & Gold, 2020). Failure to appropriately address their needs and ensure adequate support could lead HCPs to work while ill; therefore, potentially exacerbating the rate of hospital admissions during this time (Wu, Styra & Gold, 2020).

There are multiple resources available for HCPs during this difficult time to help build mental health resilience. Though the evidence is evolving, the trend is indicates the necessity of maintaining mental well-being of HCPs heavily involved in treating COVID-19 patients. As RRTs, we must be cognizant of our mental health and well-being, and maintain a healthy work-life balance. The work and care that we provide is important and we must take care of ourselves first, in order to take care of others.

Where to seek further information and support:

Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH):
https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-health-and-covid-19/information-for-professionals

Canadian Psychology Association (CPA):
https://cpa.ca/corona-virus/psychservices/

References

Ayanian, M. (2020, April 01).
Mental Health Needs of Health Care Workers Providing Frontline COVID-19 Care.
Retrieved June 30, 2020, from https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2764228?utm_content=weekly_highlights

Pappa, S., Ntella, V., Giannakas, T., Giannakoulis, V. G., Papoutsi, E., & Katsaounou, P. (2020).
Prevalence of depression, anxiety, and insomnia among healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic: A systematic review and meta-analysis.
Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2020.05.026

Shanafelt, T., Ripp, J., & Trockel, M. (2020).
Understanding and Addressing Sources of Anxiety Among Health Care Professionals During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Jama, 323(21), 2133-2134. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.5893

Spoorthy, M. S., Pratapa, S. K., & Mahant, S. (2020).
Mental health problems faced by healthcare workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic-A review.
Asian journal of psychiatry, 51, 102119. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajp.2020.102119

Wu, P. E., Styra, R., & Gold, W. L. (2020).
Mitigating the psychological effects of COVID-19 on health care workers.
Canadian Medical Association Journal, 192(17), E459-E460. doi:10.1503/cmaj.200519

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