Since the COVID-19 pandemic began and cases accelerated across the United States, frontline workers have found themselves in positions that they frankly never though they would experience as healthcare workers.
“This pandemic has placed our healthcare systems and workers in unchartered waters and the future is still unknown,” says Hank Drummond, Chief Clinical Officer of Cross Country Healthcare. “It has generated stressors and ethical challenges never before seen by many healthcare professionals.”
The pandemic has underscored the importance of frontline workers to our nation’s health. These professionals are being stretched to the max and asked to perform tasks that they have never done before. They have had to be family to the patients they serve, as COVID-infected patients are not allowed visitors. For the same reason, they have had to be the clergy at the bedsides of their dying patients. Assuming all of these roles takes an emotional toll on healthcare professionals as they witness death daily and, on some days, lose multiple patients to the battle against COVID.
So, all of this begs the question: what is the post-COVID responsibility of leadership to frontline healthcare workers? As healthcare leaders, we are asked to predict and prepare for the future -- the new normal of healthcare. The success of our response will be directly related to our ability to care for ourselves and one another. Self-Care is essential.
How Frontline Healthcare Workers Can Practice Self-Care Amid COVID-19
Take time for you! Recognize that you need to care for yourself first. The old saying holds true here: “You need to refill your tank before you burn up more gas.” Healthcare professionals need to be aware of when they are having excessive stress, anxiety or other mental health issues. Recognize that it is a strength to understand when you need help, not a weakness.
Love yourself with some downtime and self-compassion. Accept that having anxiety, stress, and/or grief is a part of caring for others. Understand the trauma that you witness leaves its mark on your heart, mind and soul – the very essence of who you are. Take a breath. Take another. Let it out.
Keeping it all balanced is not always easy. Especially when you are working in a stress-filled environment, exposed to trauma, witnessing death and working long hours. It is time for you to love yourself and your coworkers again, anew.
Find that co-worker you can decompress with. Let it out, let the tears flow. Read a book, take a walk, have some quiet time in prayer or meditation. Love yourself to the nth degree.
If we have learned anything during this pandemic, it is how important our healthcare professionals are to our nation’s recovery. And for that reason, we want and need each of you to care for yourselves so you can care for our loved ones, friends, neighbors and communities. You have a unique skill set that is so very necessary during this time. You are essential and we need each of you to be at the top of your game.