By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

Healthcare workers used social media to collectively express frustration about a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and alarm about the spread of the coronavirus during the pandemic’s first wave, according to a recent analysis of hundreds of thousands of tweets posted between March 1 and June 30, 2020.

Caring for patients during the pandemic has been hazardous for frontline clinicians, with insiders raising alarm about PTSD, secondary traumatic distress (STS), and moral injury. Researchers from the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) combed through Twitter data to find keywords based on the STS scale (Arousal, Avoidance, Intrusion, and Negative Cognition and Mood). The authors focused on 1,000 tweets that were randomly selected from a larger set of 443,918 tweets by 281,021 unique authors posted using the hashtags #getmePPE and #getusPPE.

The subscales with the most matches were Intrusion (“My heart started pounding when I thought about my work with patients”), Negative Cognition and Mood (“I felt emotionally numb”), and Arousal (“I felt jumpy”).

“We were able to group tweets and conversations between people working in the healthcare space and explicate the tone, rather than specific symptomatology, of these conversations, and note an immediate and increasing level of stress regarding the lack of PPE as well as collective alarm at the lack of institutional and governmental response. An indirect analysis of STS can be supposed from exploring this evolving conversation and how it was used to both explicate trauma and contextualize it within a community,” the authors wrote. “We propose that the creation of the two study hashtags was initiated as an act of protest and of coping by a group of multidisciplinary colleagues that grew with the emerging crisis and quickly evolved into demands for social action and advocacy.”

In the upcoming November issue of ED Management, author Dorothy Brooks will explore moral distress among emergency nurses as the pandemic drags on and how leaders can mitigate the burdens of staff shortages and crisis standards of care.

For much more Relias Media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, please click here.