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The COVID-19 pandemic has Physicians everywhere scrambling to adjust to difficult challenges on a unique medical battlefield. As this crisis unravels in real-time, no one is sure of what kind of psychological toll it will take on America’s frontline Physicians.
Pandemic care is often likened to practicing in a warzone due to high mortality rates, poor working conditions, crushing patient censuses, and challenging triage decisions secondary to equipment rationing. While many Physicians worldwide have answered the call to join the COVID fight, it is important to consider what effects this work may have on their mental health. For insight into the psychological challenges that may await frontline pandemic Physicians, consider the results of research evaluating the effects of wartime care on combat medics. Medics who were exposed to wartime conditions were 2.4 times more likely to seek mental health assistance than were their non-combat medic colleagues and were also more likely to screen positive for PTSD1. Depression was also a central issue for these professionals, as they were 2.7 times more likely to screen positive for depression after deployment1.
It is critical to recognize that the added burdens of pandemic care on an already taxed and frequently burned out American Physician population, may lead to a marked increase in mental health issues. This highlights just how important it is for pandemic Physicians to have access to effective mental healthcare solutions during this crisis.
Tips to Help Cope
Utilize Tech Options- There are many Apps and online resources to help Physicians unwind and find a new focus. Consider listening to podcasts, guided mindfulness narratives or music while on break or try a relaxation App to help escape, even if it is only for a few minutes. Telemedicine is also a great option to consider if schedules don’t allow for time away from the hospital for mental health assistance. There are many Psychiatrists working online that would be happy to help Physicians successfully manage the emotions associated with practicing during this crisis.
Mental Health, Help Seeking, and Stigma and Barriers to Care Among 3- and 12-Month Post deployed and Never Deployed U.S. Army Combat Medics Paula L. Chapman, PhD, et.al. Military Medicine, Volume 179, Issue suppl_8, August 2014, Pages 55–62, https://doi.org/10.7205/MILMED-D-12-00367