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Mental Health of Health Care Workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The rising number of COVID-19 cases and the severity of their symptoms has given health care workers the fundamental responsibility to treat those affected. Health care workers are being praised more than ever all around the world. From neighborhoods cheering outside their windows every night to the possibilities of eliminating student debt, health care workers are undoubtedly essential to the world’s wellbeing.

However, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) has emphasized increased anxiety among nurses as a direct impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The growing death toll of the virus, in addition to its airborne transmission, has put health care workers, especially nurses, in a position of extreme unprecedented pressure and stress. Nurses are exposed to the virus in the hospital every day, and many fear endangering their own families when coming home. Some health care workers even go so far as to avoid seeing their families completely. On the other hand, nurses are feeling overworked as they take on more frequent and longer shifts due to high demand for their help. At the same time, they face inadequate supplies of PPE on a daily basis, risking more exposure during every shift. To make matters worse, social distancing is not taken seriously by the mainstream public, as more people join large gatherings and refuse to wear protective masks. Protests have erupted against social distancing measures, and nurses themselves have even become the target of verbal abuse.

Programs are being implemented to ease the psychological pressure on nurses. The online magazine the Nursing Times launched the “Covid-19: Are You Ok?” campaign to check on the mental health of nurses around the world. By initiating this campaign, nurses are given the support they need to prevent burnout and stress. Judy Davidson, nurse scientist at UCSD Health, says her facility created Healer Education Assessment and Referral (HEAR) for suicide prevention. Davidson believes that providing mental support for health care workers is just as critical as providing them with PPE. Other hospitals are implementing “emotional first aiders” and are offering classes for mental resilience.

Health care workers are certainly essential frontliners during the pandemic. They constantly “enter a battlefield” as they prepare to take on new, unknown challenges every day. The battle that health care workers face during their normal routine is already a great deal of pressure, but the stress of COVID-19 adds an extra layer that requires them to sacrifice more than they had planned for. As the world gladly honors the relentless efforts of healthcare workers during these unusual times, we are greatly reminded to care for them as much as they have cared for us.

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