Healthcare workers on the frontline of COVID-19 have been reminded not to neglect themselves as they care for others.
This advice has come from Consultant Psychiatrist at the Psychiatric Hospital, Dr. Joy Sue, during an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service.
Dr. Sue said healthcare workers usually “put a lot of energy into making their clients well” and in doing so they may form bonds with patients. Frontline workers may also feel overwhelmed from time to time, given the demands of their jobs.
“It is easy to neglect your own self-care when so much of your time is dedicated to caring for others, but this is even more important for frontline workers. Self-care activities should be an ongoing process,” she said, while recommending relaxation, art and craft, exercising, and spending time with loved ones.
The psychiatrist also noted that those caring for persons infected with COVID-19 may find themselves providing emotional support to clients and their families.
This usually happens with impending deaths or when patients take a turn for the worse. While healthcare professionals may be used to this, it becomes more challenging with COVID-19 patients since they cannot receive visitors. This is due to the contagious nature of the illness.
Dr. Sue stressed it was important that healthcare professionals remember that their purpose is not only to cure illness, but to provide comfort as well.
“When a client dies, they also experience this as a loss and may go through the grieving process. In spite of best efforts, negative outcomes may still occur and so it is important that frontline workers have a realistic balance in their mind to remind them of the positive outcomes and the importance of the work that they are doing. Death does not have to be viewed as failure as clients and relatives may value the comfort you were able to provide in the client’s last moments.”
Dr. Sue encouraged frontline workers to express their feelings about these deaths with colleagues in order to cope.
“Healthcare workers should provide a support system for each other that can be accessed at the time of the death. It may be helpful to take a moment to reflect on time spent with the client and any positive experiences that may have been shared,” she suggested.
She also recommended self-care activities following a death, which could include taking time off duty, exercising, mediation, or listening to uplifting music.
The psychiatrist further emphasized that frontline healthcare workers should have access to counselling resources, which would also allow them to discuss their emotions in a “more structured way”.