Check this out. What you will see is pretty much what you would expect during the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr. Hartsock, the physician pictured above, is a Hospitalist. And she is scared to go to the hospital every day. Scared for herself and scared for other healthcare workers. Scared because 10% of the infected patients in Italy, a country which we seem to be mimicking, are healthcare workers. AND. Scared because, for some reason, when people on the frontlines of fighting this pandemic get the COVID-19 virus, they get it BAD! And yes she is asking for donations of PPE (Remember when we didn’t know what that acronym stood for?). Like I said, pretty much what you would expect a physician in this position in March 2020 to be saying.
So why do I refer you to this post if its content is so predictable? Answer? Because it got me to thinking. You see, I have a “stock speech” about physician mental health that I have given several times at conferences, as a Webinar, etc. In it, I cover physician suicide, depression and burnout. Such manifestations of physician mental health issues are of great concern due their frequency and impact on the practitioner AND on patient care.
SO. Against this backdrop, I am pondering the longer-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the practitioner fear it is understandably causing. Will rates of physician suicide, depression and burnout increase significantly? I am thinking PTSD here.
And will rates of “compassion fatigue” increase among the nurses who are working amazingly long hours, afraid of getting sick themselves and having to hold dying patients’ hands since no visitors are permitted? Again, I would think, a resounding yes.
Bottom Line. My prediction? Those of us who deal with health care providers, as professionals and as patients, are going to be dealing with the psychological sequalae of COVID-19 long after the virus itself has been beaten into submission!