By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

More than three dozen groups this week released a joint statement detailing the importance of tending to the mental well-being of healthcare workers who are battling COVID-19.

In the statement, the groups stressed healthcare workers should actively seek help, if they need it, rather than feeling shame or fear of punishment. Concurrently, these groups urged credentialing bodies to avoid discouraging healthcare workers from seeking help with their mental well-being or penalizing those who are seeking such assistance.

“A physician’s choice to address his or her mental health should be encouraged, not penalized,” American College of Emergency Physicians President William Jaquis, MD, FACEP, said in a release. “Efforts to preserve and protect the mental health of emergency care teams should be prioritized now and in the aftermath of this pandemic.”

In the joint statement, those who are feeling overwhelmed are encouraged to confide with close colleagues, which can bring teams closer together through bonding over shared experiences.

“As important as providing personal protective equipment is the need to ensure the mental health of our frontline clinicians is attended to during the COVID-19 pandemic,” American Psychiatric Association President Jeffrey Geller, MD, MPH, said in a release. “Each healthcare professional should seek help if needed without hesitation, and should be helped to do so by a colleague, if such assistance is necessary.”

The June issue of Hospital Peer Review (HPR) includes an article acknowledging the extreme stress brought on by the healthcare industry’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, there is concern about more than a few workers developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“I’m sure there will be cases of post-COVID [PTSD]. We will have a whole generation of doctors and nurses of all ages who will have stress that will have to be addressed on the other side of this,” M. Bridget Duffy, MD, chief medical officer of Vocera Communications in San Jose, CA, told HPR.

In the upcoming July issue of HPR, author Greg Freeman explores further the threat of PTSD after the pandemic. The cover story urges leaders to watch for signs of PTSD, and a sidebar includes specific traits to watch for to gauge who might be in danger. (The June issue of HPR also includes general tips for helping stressed caregivers, which can be found here.)

Relias Media has been covering the COVID-19 pandemic from many angles. Now, several publications are looking ahead to the aftermath, especially the fragile mental health of those who worked so hard to save lives. The cover story of the upcoming July issue of Hospital Employee Health calls PTSD the “parallel pandemic.” In the upcoming July issue of Same-Day Surgery, a long-time nurse who contracted the virus shares her harrowing journey to recovery and how that fight affected her mental health.

For even more information about helping healthcare workers maintain their well-being, be sure to listen to Episode 15 of the Relias Media podcast series “Rounds with Relias.”