Provider Wellbeing During Stressful Times

Healthcare Responders, Be Good To Yourselves!

Healthcare responders are at higher than average risk for traumatic stress reactions because their work repeatedly exposes them to highly stressful situations.  During a COVID-19 outbreak you may experience far greater than average stress:
  • Face conflicting demands between work and family responsibilities.
  • Increased risk of infection/Have fear about contagion or spreading illness.
  • Experience equipment challenges that limit mobility and communication; experience shortages of equipment
  • Feel constant pressure to keep working, along with a sense of ineffectiveness.
  • Experience stigma and isolation (from community, co-workers, friends, and family).
  • Have concerns about the health and wellbeing of yourself, your family, friends, and loved ones.
  • Not want to leave work when your shift is finished--regardless of whether your replacement has arrived.

Try to override stress and fatigue with dedication and commitment, and you may deny the need for rest and recovery time.

Regardless, you will not be untouched by the enormous gravity of the situation and you will experience sadness, grief, and/or anger.  As a healthcare responder, you need to become fully informed about the impact that such an event may have on you personally and professionally, and how to protect yourself.

Recognize Your Stress Reactions

Be on alert for the following list of stress reactions.
  • Physical reactions
    • Rapid heart rate, palpitations, muscle tension, headaches, tremors, GI distress, nausea, inability to relax when off duty, trouble sleeping, nightmares, or flashbacks. Emotional reactions
    • Fear or terror in life-threatening situations or perceived danger, anger, frustration, argumentativeness, irritability, deep sadness, difficulty maintaining emotional balance
  • Cognitive reactions
    • Disorientation or confusion, difficulty problem-solving and making decisions, difficulty remembering instructions, inability to see situations clearly, distortion and misinterpretation of comments and events.
  • Behavioral reactions
    • Unnecessary risk-taking, failure to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), refusal to follow orders or leave the scene, endangerment of team members, increased use or misuse of prescription drugs or alcohol.
  • Interpersonal reactions
    • Irritability, anger and hostility, blaming, reduced ability to support teammates, conflicts with peers or family, withdrawal, isolation.

Implement Organizational Stress Management Policies

  • Limit working shifts to no longer than 12 hour shifts.
  • Utilize teams and limit the amount of time staff work alone.
  • Provide emotional defusing and assess responder functioning after each shift.
  • Nurture team support:
    • Create a buddy system.
    • Encourage breaks.
    • Promote a positive atmosphere of support and tolerance.