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The Psychological Impacts of COVID-19 on Healthcare Workers

The proceeding is a detailed compilation of literature on the psychological impact of Covid-19 on healthcare workers in the United States. The review will first give the historical development of the psychological impact of any pandemic on healthcare workers and then provide the recent psychological impact of Covid-19 on healthcare workers. It will then analyze the lessons learned from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on health workers, and finally, the plans to evade the psychological impact of a similar pandemic on health workers.

Historical development of the Psychological Impact of the Pandemic on Health workers

Covid-19 was not the only virus that pushed healthcare workers on the verge of collapse regarding psychological implications. In history, such cases have been identified with various health issues too. According to Son et al. (2019), health workers underwent a psychological breakdown when the Middle East respiratory disease emerged in South Korea. From a total of 280 healthcare workers, almost half of the population expressed reduced resilience which sent fear into the perception and hope of other workers. Those who faced the Middle East Respiratory disease in 2015 lacked preparation to handle the outbreak, which caused most of them to develop psychological breakdowns with an immediate impact of perceived low resilience risk among the workers (Son, 2019).

Similarly, the same case was vivid when a terrifying Ebola virus was on outbreak. Chew et al. (2020) detail that emerging health issues always find healthcare workers unprepared, leaving them psychologically drained. Various psychological impacts are displayed, such as anxiety about the new disease, the guilt of watching the patient dying at your watch, depression, post-traumatic stress, anger, stigmatization as a healthcare worker and the grief of those being lost every day (Chew et al., 2020). The impact was not only limited to psychological torture, but the outbreak claimed the lives of healthcare workers at some point, terrorizing their being.

In other instances, an outbreak came as a psychological blow to healthcare workers worldwide. The other instance is the influenza pandemic that grieved many families in 2009 (Chew, 2020). Keysely et al. (2020) assert that healthcare workers are always on the verge of quitting when dealing with a novel outbreak. Influenza outbreaks took a toll on their work’s psychological well-being, leaving them both physically and mentally imbalanced. Sometimes these workers have their relatives under the watch of influenza patient procedures and are put into more extended quarantine periods. With the bit of experience of the new virus, they are thrown into despair, watching their loved ones into quarantine, not sure if they will get through the test of the allocated time and recover (Keysely et al., 2020). Moreover, healthcare workers undergo stigmatization based on insufficient knowledge and limited options for dealing with the situation.

The situation was never different when the novel Coronavirus took its popularity on the stage, pushing the world into chaos, fear, and hopelessness. Based on healthcare workers’ historical and psychological disposition, there was an urgent thirst to synthesize and integrate the experience accumulated while dealing with life-threatening outbreaks that emerged before Covid-19 (Chew, 2020). The virus was initially discovered in 2019 in a series of outbreaks of respiratory diseases situations in China, Wuhan City. The emergence of Covid-19 became a threat to life on the planet, with the death toll reaching the highest number in the history of infections and virus outbreaks. Healthcare workers have been subjected to an overwhelming workload accompanied by unrequited pressure since the emergence of the Virus (Yu Si et al., 2020).

Recent Psychological Impact of Covid-19 on Health Workers

During the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus, the healthcare worker was a vivid definition of burnout caused by the overwhelming workloads and the unending interaction with flooding patients. They experienced suffering and pains caused by long hours of working with limited sleep thriving to catch a breath with the pressure from the unknown and threatening virus (Martinez-Lopez et al., 2020). According to Martinez-Lopez et al. (2020), at least 12 percent of healthcare workers succumbed to the disease. This staggering number imprinted uncertainty among the healthcare workers in the field. Working with poor or no protective measures with a hunch of contradicting information about the virus from the official databases threw the healthcare workers into panic and anxiety.

This is because it is believed that burnout problems could be brought on by stress in a working environment, which depends on time constraints, workload, time constraints, demands, or management pressure, among other related things. However, the psychosocial approach believes that the work and personal environments are what can cause this syndrome to manifest. In such a way, it arises as a reaction to labor stress without an exact cause that precipitates it. However, realizing this does not minimize the dissatisfaction or lack of motivation already present. Furthermore, strikingly, we noticed from the completed logistic regression that the increased probability of experiencing burnout focuses on medical professionals over other health workers in the sub-dimension of emotional tiredness. Notably, they outperform clinical attendants responsible for providing patients with the most basic care.

Nevertheless, this vulnerability to compassion fatigue is not a consequence of a shortage of cooperation between the various professional classifications instead of the failure of highly trained professionals to anticipate the widespread absence of independent protective gear among medical practitioners, particularly the ones who were most susceptible to virus infection because of more significant interaction with patients. This makes sense in the relationship between emotional tiredness and the ability to approach sickness more scientifically than through companionship and concern. In this respect, the operation might be focused on saving the lives of people with the disease who, while several could be rescued, several others failed, especially in specialized units like the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), in which the requirement for spaces was more significant than the present availability. These specialists’ inability to effectively respond to COVID-19 sickness has resulted in increased emotional weariness. Similar findings have been seen in recent research, like that of Si et al. (2020), which demonstrated that following the COVID-19 epidemic, doctors in China showed increased symptoms related to mental health, increased anxiety regarding violence, and decreased mood.

The main psychological difficulties encountered were apprehension about the future or being infected. According to extensive research by Que et al. (2020), medical assistance during the pandemic causes panic and raises stress levels. The most significant portion of the population that is already at heightened risk, such as healthcare workers, who have a greater suicidal possibility as compared to the rest of the population, may become more traumatized by the overall situation, which also increases their likelihood of developing mental health disorders. Amid the crisis, healthcare workers received emphasis on sacrificing themselves while rendering vital and life-saving operations, and healthcare workers were frequently embodied as heroes. This increased the pressure on individuals to meet expectations regarding their capacity for professional and emotional flexibility and individual strength. But, compared to military members in a visualized approach, it deprives them of the ability to perceive their weaknesses or talk about unpleasant events. This may unintentionally raise their stigmatizing attitudes and mental health concerns, preventing individuals from obtaining psychiatric care.

Many healthcare personnel in direct contact with infected patients in China were more subject to mental torture, expressing extreme mental disorder symptoms including stress, insomnia and anxiety than those in managerial positions. The psychological impact did not only affect those in contact with patients but also those non-frontiers. They experienced psychological stress due to the fact that they lacked quality resources that were distributed to frontiers for safety purposes. Such feeling demonstrates the necessity of supporting systems for every medical personnel, regardless of their position or level of viral exposure. Medical professionals were undoubtedly confronting difficult choices and moral difficulties during the outbreak due to the added ambiguity surrounding the virus therapies and progression, including the difficulties of enough resources. Ethical consideration tied to the psychological suffering resulting from activities or no action at all while handling Covid-19 patients infringes the moral standards of healthcare professionals.

Lessons Learnt from Psychological impact of Covid-19 on healthcare workers

According to Karbarkapa et al. (2020), healthcare workers ask their management and employers to be heard, protected, prepared, supported, and cared for by the employer. These five things are essential facts that we learn from the psychological impact of Covid-19 on healthcare workers. The call for help indicates that employers must constantly be reminded to provide early support that will safeguard the psychological stability of healthcare workers. The call to be prepared indicates their thirst for knowledge to deal with any novel outbreak. They were pushed into the raging fires with only their scalpels in their hands without prior knowledge of the pandemic, making them hard to cope. This led many healthcare workers to be the victims and fatality toll of Covid-19. The call to be protected indicates the despair and desperate situation of the healthcare workers. They were only reminded to sacrifice their lives to save the lives of others in the hospital. It was a demanding case despite being referred to as heroes at the time of the quest.

Another aspect learned from the study is that the higher incidence of COVID-19’s psychological effects on healthcare professionals warrants more consideration of this subgroup’s educational and policy treatments. Various authors have argued for behavioral and educational therapies emphasizing resiliency, positive thinking, social support, consistency, and other factors.

The results of various researchers show that psychological therapies must be developed to support post-traumatic development in healthcare workers. It is estimated that stress prevalence has significant ramifications for creating an intervention at a suitable time to deal with emerging PTSD at its initial stage, which might be helpful in the pandemic’s healing stages. Mental health remedies for healthcare workers and their well-being is pioneered by most of the researchers, including teaching coping mechanisms, engaging social wellness actions in the community, encouraging every effort of the healthcare workers, and opening lines of communication for help with the advent of depression and work pressure at crucial times to conserve the energy of the worker.

Future mitigations

Every department and field needs future emergency crisis planning, and medical professionals should do the same. Employers should care for those they are leading and make organizational strategies for staff well-being, consistent communication, and significant team support for the healthcare workforce to perform to their full potential over an extended period. Individual resiliency will be promoted in such a setting, and self-compassion and self-care will be encouraged. Once the immediate threat of COVID-19 has passed, various organizations and institutions should focus on developing an organizational culture of resilience that will help lessen the possibility of psychological torture and impact on healthcare workers and create a weekly routine to check on the condition of these workers.

To sustain an organizational culturally resilient environment, socio-psychological assistance should concentrate on organizational and personal traits. Previous outbreaks have shown that the organizational setting has a significant impact on the psychological consequences for healthcare workers and the entire workforce’s productivity framework. It is understood that organizational culture beliefs, leadership philosophies, and management interaction approaches play a significant role in employee stress management. Employee-to-employee communication and assistance in establishing instructions and safety precautions help lessen the possibilities of emotional discomfort in outbreak conditions. Socially attributed assistance and support groups may also help to reduce stress. Still, because of their busy schedules or worries about spreading the illness they are exposed to on the job, healthcare workers frequently neglect their friendships and family ties. Maintaining social interactions is becoming more complex, given the need for social distancing. There are detailed sections about healthcare employees suffering from harassment and social stigma due to public concern over catching the pandemic from individuals who have had the most exposure.


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