Although there have already been numerous significant events that have occurred this year, it is very likely 2020 will be known as the “Year of COVID-19”. This disease has resulted in tremendous change to human activity and way of life in attempts to mitigate viral spread around the globe. It is vital that our healthcare providers and frontline workers feel as safe and supported as possible during this time. Not only are they at an increased risk of catching the disease, but they are also at a much higher risk for developing some form of mental illness during this stressful time. If our healthcare and frontline workers aren’t properly cared for, who will be there to care for the rest of the world?
As seen across numerous news outlets and social media accounts, hospital staff and first responders have been dealing with the stress of a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) leaving many feeling unsafe and exposed. At the peak COVID-19 in the US, CDC recommendations for frontline workers when masks were limited or not available was to utilize bandanas and scarves when caring for COVID-19 positive patients (1). The information provided for “safe practices” was very dynamic and inconsistent, heightening feelings of mistrust and fear as many frontline healthcare workers fell ill to the virus.
The added stress of the possible transmission of the virus to loved ones also left many feeling alone and isolated. Many photos shared online were seen of ER physicians camping out in tents in their garages or backyards in order to keep their families safe. Because of this, healthcare workers were seen as possible vectors for the virus increasing fear amongst the general public. Increased incidences of abuse and harassment against those wearing scrubs and hospital uniforms were seen throughout the world. Mexican state authorities had special buses arranged for nurses traveling to and from work, and in areas of Australia, hospitals urged their staff to not wear their uniforms in public (2).
So how can healthcare workers feel supported during a time when they are needed the most? First, it’s important to assess the areas of highest need. A team at Stanford Medicine held several sessions with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare workers to find out their top concerns back in April 2020 regarding the pandemic. These were the top eight sources of anxiety mentioned (3):
- Access to appropriate personal protective equipment;
- Exposure to COVID-19 at work and bringing the infection home to their families;
- The lack of rapid testing access in symptoms were to develop and the possibility of spreading the infection at work;
- The uncertainty of support and care from their organizations;
- Access to childcare during increased work hours and school closures;
- Finding support for personal and family needs such as food and lodging as work hours and demands increase;
- Providing competent medical care if deployed to a new department (for example, a nurse who does not work in the ICU being assigned to the ICU);
- The lack of access to up-to-date information and communication.
Strong leadership and community support go a long way in creating a positive change. Maintaining open communication among leaders and consistent feedback from healthcare professionals will assist in ensuring needs are being met. Back in March as hospitals in Hawaii prepared for the worst, community members around the state stepped up to the plate to help healthcare and frontline workers. Numerous donations of medical equipment and PPE were delivered to hospitals and other medical facilities. Community members, schools, and various companies utilized their equipment to manufacture home-made PPE such as face shields and masks (4). All the hard work and donations made by the public are greatly appreciated.
As the threat of a second-wave looms, it is important to take this time to make appropriate preparations. Healthcare workers understand the risks that come with their chosen profession, but they are ready and willing to perform their duties and ensure the safety and protection of their patients. They simply seek reassurance of their own safety and protection for themselves and their loved ones as well.
It seems that a concluding sentence should be added. For example, one can encourage people to contribute to the combat against COVID-19 as far as it is possible. It can be suggested to conclude with the following sentence:
While frontline workers combat against COVID-19 with determination and courage, we can help them by following WHO guidelines, donating, and spreading the awareness of the virus around the world (5).
In general, you did a great job! You properly discussed the current situation with the coronavirus in the US, including the challenges of frontline workers and possible solutions. I believe that the minor improvements that are mentioned above would make your article more informative, understandable, and encouraging for readers.