Physician well being during a pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of several doctors in Kenya as more are testing positive for the virus. The first doctor to succumb to the disease was Dr Adisa Lugaliki - may God rest her soul in peace. According to her colleagues, she was in disbelief that she was being intubated, a procedure that she had been doing to patients at the hospital that she worked in. It is unfortunate to think how the tables can turn in such a short period, and the effect of this experience has left many healthcare workers traumatized, especially the loss of one of their own under their care.
From the analysis of available data, Amnesty International has reported that over 3,000 health workers are known to have died from COVID-19 worldwide, a figure which is likely to be significantly underestimated. Such data should be a wake up call to governments to put in place more stringent measures to protect healthcare workers, as it shows how vulnerable these professionals are thus the need to focus on their well being.
What can help our doctors navigate through these tough times? Staying informed and relying on credible sources for your information in order to keep updated, but don’t overload on news or social media. Accept that many aspects are out of your control, focus on the things that you can control and remember that there is a great deal of uncertainty. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and others, remember everyone is doing their best during these challenging times and even if you feel you are not doing enough, your contributions do make a difference. It's normal to experience stress and fear during an outbreak so know what the signs are and have strategies in place to address these feelings such as seeking support, practising deep breathing or engaging in physical activities when possible.
Take care of your basic needs like eating well, hydrating, taking breaks and getting enough rest. Have a plan in place and practice how to respond if you or your family member gets sick. This will help eliminate the stresses of the unknown. Remember that you are part of a team doing this important work and not alone, seek out support from colleagues and peers as a way of recharging for the long road ahead.