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The COVID-19 Pandemic: How Health Care Workers are Coping

Image of a nurse helping a COVID-19 patient. Click to open a larger version of the image. Health care workers do witness patients at their most vulnerable state, and like most who face high traumatic situations, it is important to maintain a work-life balance. However, the lines are blurring with the COVID-19 battle (Photo by: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Erwin Jacob Miciano).

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Not so long ago health care workers faced an unknown battle.

The demand for knowledge, experience, and equipment was high. Vaccines were introduced and infection rates started to show progress in the COVID-19 battle.

For health care providers, experiencing the pandemic inside a hospital has brought a new kind of traumatic experience - one that requires resilience in the face of adversity.

Health care workers do witness patients at their most vulnerable state, and like most who face high traumatic situations, it is important to maintain a work-life balance.

However, the lines are blurring with the COVID-19 battle. Some health care workers, for example, are self-isolating and staying onsite to prevent the spread of infection. From these experiences, mental health providers are noticing frontline health care providers developing symptoms of post-traumatic stress symptoms and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Health care workers have experienced a battle with initially little knowledge and supplies. They are continually learning as they go and making life-changing decisions daily," said Dr. Kelly Blasko, a counseling psychologist and lead of the Defense Health Agency's mHealth Clinical Integration Office in the Connected Health Branch. "On top of that, the lack of rest and isolation is heightening their stress and impacting their coping abilities. Self-care for these health care providers is more important now than ever."

"The Provider Resilience toolkit was developed to support burnout in health care providers, and help enable them to provide the best care to our military community," she continued.

The DHA Connected Health Branch continues to leverage digital health technology and bringing health care resources to providers in a digital fashion. The toolkit, mentioned by Blasko, reminds medical professionals to be aware of the signs of burnout, take a break when noticing the signs, and to create a positive work environment.

"I've noticed when my body starts to feel off, my mind kind of follows," said Air Force Senior Airman Clayton Johnson, a mobile medic.

"If I start to feel physically tired, I'm going to feel a bit mentally groggy, a bit more worn out, maybe I need to continue to work on my bedside manner in terms of how I talk to patients."

Along with tips, the toolkit suggests four digital health apps to support health care providers who are coping with the ever-changing environment that has been the created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Breathe2Relax teaches diaphragmatic breathing to de-escalate stress
  • Virtual Hope Box contains personalized tools to help with positive coping through relaxation, distraction, and connecting to others in a time of need.
  • Provider Resilienceoffers self-assessments and stress reduction tools along with a dashboard to track your daily resilience rating.
  • Military Meditation Coach Podcast helps with strengthening the mind with a variety of meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation exercises.

Recognizing burnout and focusing on self-care, allows health care workers to be medically ready and continue the battle against COVID-19.

It's important for them to focus on themselves during these high-stress times, explained Blasko.

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