Supporting health care workers who are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it’s important that every one of us recognizes the pressure that healthcare systems—and particularly those who work in healthcare—are under, and that we all take steps to support them.

Many of us have friends and family who are frontline health care workers. They are under greater stress than the rest of us, even though we may at times feel overwhelmed ourselves, and it is vital that we show them support and understanding at this time, and help lessen the load for them in as many ways as we can.

The most important thing that everyone can do to support workers who are saving lives and keeping people safe is to follow government advice about the ways in which we can help slow the spread of the virus.

There are also other practical and emotional measures you can take to care for friends or family who are on the front line of the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. Here are a few:

Listen and share their burden.

There is often a temptation for health care workers to internalize the pressures of their job and to ignore the impact it has on their private lives. While understandable, this is not good for their mental wellbeing. Talking helps, so ask them about their day and the pressures they are under. You are not there to solve their problems but simply by listening and empathizing, you will be sharing their burden.

Maintain a routine.

Health care workers’ lives are far from normal right now, which makes it all the more important to maintain simple things such as regular meals, family activities, and sleep patterns in order to create a reassuringly familiar and supportive home environment.

Nourish their body and spirits.

If someone close to you is a health care worker putting in long hours under intense pressure, you will see firsthand that this exacts a considerable physical toll. So make sure your loved one is getting enough rest and eating healthy meals to keep their immune system strong. Exercise is also important for helping people to switch off and rejuvenate their spirits—so help them find time for a walk, run, bicycle ride, or suggest some yoga or meditation.

Stay connected.

Many health care workers are having to stay away from loved ones who have underlying conditions which make them more susceptible to COVID-19. If this is your situation then staying in regular touch by phone or video call allows them to be a part of family life emotionally even when they can’t physically be there.

Help them maintain perspective.

Being on the frontline gives health care workers additional insight into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This can be overwhelming so it is important to help your loved one maintain perspective. Remind them that, while not everyone can be saved, they are doing their best and that is all anyone can ask of them.

Recognize the added roles many hospital workers will bear.

With hospital visitation restrictions, medical personnel—who in addition to their regular duties, will take the place of the support that family and friends normally provide. Recognize these added responsibilities and tell your loved one “the patient’s family is grateful that it was someone like you who could be there with their loved one when they could not.”

If you are interested and able to do more, consider donating to a global fund set up by the World Health Organization (WHO), which helps “to ensure patients get the care they need and frontline workers get essential supplies and information; and to accelerate efforts to develop vaccines, tests, and treatments.” Also, you may look to your local health authority for ways you can support health care workers in your area.

Above all, be caring, be compassionate and be tolerant—those on the frontlines are working for the good of us all and deserve our patience and support.

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