Fatigue has replaced fear for us health workers on the frontline, the toll of the past two years has left a mark | Stephen Parnis

0

I’ve done my final weekend emergency department shift for the year.

The hospital was busy and pressured for the entire shift. Nothing unusual about that.

Delayed transfers of admissions from cubicles to wards. Extraordinary numbers of mentally ill patients are no longer surprising. Cases involving drug and alcohol abuse are equally frequent, and just as harmful. Is it widespread community anxiety? Is it a reaction to the end of the latest lockdown? I can only speculate as I assess each case.

The Covid zone continues to accept the latest pandemic cases, and the details of their presentations are now almost routine. These people are frightened, angry, and often in denial. A story of sick family members at home or in other hospitals. Many are unwell, some severely so.

I didn’t have the heart to tell an elderly man recently that his wife had died of Covid in a nearby hospital. I hope I never become immune to the human toll that I witness.

In my own professional experience, the seriously unwell have all been unvaccinated, and their traumas could have been avoided.

We have been in the throes of a global pandemic for almost two years. Suffering has been widespread, and immense. Basic freedoms have needed to be curtailed in the fight to reduce spread, and to save lives.

But as I pause to reflect on 2021, I’m glad to say that I feel a strong sense of gratitude.

On 25 January 2020, Australia recorded its first case of Covid. On 25 January 2021, the Therapeutic Goods Administration signed off on the use of the Pfizer vaccine to mitigate this same disease.

I still find it amazing that it took less than 12 months for the world’s scientific and medical professions to develop several safe and effective vaccinations to counter Covid-19. It has been a gamechanger, saving thousands upon thousands of lives in Australia alone. Having lived and worked through three waves of the pandemic, I can tell you that nothing scared me as much as having to stare into the face of this virus with nothing more than ill-fitting and scarce PPE in 2020.

In March, I received my first Covid vaccination. I was surprised at the emotions I felt as I received my jab, and I have never been more eager to ensure everyone came to understand what doctors know about the science behind vaccines.

While we can all identify serious mistakes and delays with vaccine procurement, rollout and public health messaging, the fact remains that the vast majority of Australians have heeded the call, rolled up their sleeves, and received their Covid vaccinations over the course of this year.

I’m grateful for the people I work with. Hundreds of thousands of Australian healthcare workers rightly deserve to be called heroes.

Over the past two years, they have served with professionalism, courage, and endurance. Fear of being infected has declined, as they have taken up their vaccines with very few exceptions.

But fear has been replaced with fatigue. A torrent of information and ever-changing protocols – everything from hospital entry procedures to PPE to treatment decisions – have become even harder to implement, as rosters have been stretched to their limits and beyond.

Not a day goes by without decisions about bed closures and service delays having to be made, as the physical and psychological toll of two years of perpetual crisis leave their mark.

We can tolerate a degree of risk, and work even when exhaustion and anxiety make it tough. But it’s a bitter pill when we find ourselves confronted by the vocal, belligerent minority who reject the science, frame everything in terms of their rights, and even hurl abuse in our direction for doing our jobs.

Our ethical framework ensures that these naysayers still receive the best of care. But at times, I’m glad a mask and shield hide some of my emotions.

On a personal note, I’m grateful to my family, friends and colleagues for their love and support. I simply could not have done what I have done without drawing on their strength, generosity and encouragement time and time again.

Like many of my colleagues, I have come to realise that self-care is not an optional extra. It is absolutely essential.

I have recently made a small reduction to my hospital hours, and made a greater effort to pay attention to the things that will support my own health – more sleep, time with family, and setting aside time to do things for pleasure rather than need. I have to say that it isn’t easy!

As 2022 looms, the uncertainties continue. Omicron poses more questions than answers for now.

But we have made it through another year. We have not been overwhelmed, and we live to fight another day. For that, I am grateful.

Dr Stephen Parnis is a Melbourne emergency physician, and a former vice-president of the Australian Medical Association.

Source link

Denial of responsibility! NewsConcerns is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@newsconcerns.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Leave a comment