“Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.”
Why is it so hard for us to admit we need support? It was for me. A survey conducted by the Society of Critical Medicine reported 9,500 critical care providers had increased stress. Work-related stressors, such as fear of contracting Covid-19, spreading it to family members and lack of personal protective equipment, have been associated with anxiety, depression and insomnia. These are genuine physical and emotional risks. And frontline healthcare workers experience unfavorable mental health outcomes and the highest psychological burden.
When we were getting ready for this next wave of admissions coming to the ICU, I wasn’t sure how we were going to do it again…and with even more patients expected than last time. I felt anxious, afraid and even though I didn’t see it at first, the anxiety and fear came out sideways in my behavior. The fight for the lives of our patients has been compared by Dr. Rita Brock, the Director of Shay Moral Injury Center, to battlefield medicine: “desperate and unrelenting encounters with patients, an environment of high personal risk, an unseen lethal enemy, extreme physical and mental fatigue, inadequate resources and unending accumulations of the dead.”
Social and family support are so important to recharge and refuel but social distancing restrictions make it difficult to gather with friends and family as we would normally would. And despite the outpouring of calls and letters and wonderful thoughtful gifts, the stress is still under it all, leaving even the most grounded of us edgy and at times irritable or withdrawn.
To be resilient and avoid burnout, many resources have become available to healthcare workers. At my place of employment, six free sessions with a mental health professional are offered. As a believer of self-care, I decided to make an appointment and see what I would learn. And I can report that I am learning so much about perspective and how to stay balanced through this crisis and that with support we can get through this together. I’ve been able to offload the experiences to someone besides my family and friends, because sometimes if gets to be too much for ALL of us, not just frontline workers.
Now I see it everywhere, articles about burnout and stress and ways to take care of oneself, especially for the frontline workers, to stay in the game. I’ve been able to support my co-workers in finding support for themselves. I’m making a difference in their lives by helping them to find support outside of their families and friends. It’s been a long haul and we can expect many more months of the same. Who wouldn’t appreciate a trained professional in their corner giving tips and advice and lending an ear at just the right time with good solid feedback and tools to arm oneself? It’s worth it. You’re worth it!