As a society we are experiencing one of the most challenging health, social, emotional and economic periods in our history.
Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the community have been devastating with everything from the loss of loved ones, fear of contracting the virus, social dislocation, business closures and massive job losses. The emotional and psychological effects are likely to impact the wellbeing of many in our community and will be more heightened for health professionals as they respond to a range of difficult and challenging circumstances.
At the same time as workers around the country were making the shift to working from home and navigating back to back zoom meetings, nurses and midwives across the country were preparing themselves and the healthcare system to respond to a global pandemic.
As circumstances rapidly unfolded, we witnessed healthcare professionals swiftly coordinate the planning of a surge workforce, including the synchronisation of public health units to manage and expand contact tracing, thousands of nurses volunteering to up skill or retrain in acute and intensive care education, preparation and expansion of intensive care units and the establishment of widespread COVID-19 screening clinics.
Recently, I caught up with two friends and ex-nursing colleagues as they reflected on the initial weeks following the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both have been nursing for over 25 years and currently nurse in the areas of primary health and oncology. During our discussion common themes emerged as they both spoke of feeling expendable in the early days, as there was a division of workers who were able to work from the safety of their homes and those who couldn’t.
They disclosed feelings of anxiety and fear, which were also common amongst many peers as work and home pressures increased. Concern for patients and the potential fatal impacts of the virus on vulnerable patients weighed heavily. Fears of bringing the virus home and affecting family members was at times overwhelming when at the same time adapting to lifestyle changes including home schooling.
Uncertainties regarding the adequate supply of personal protective equipment and the unfolding horrors of global images of the pandemic and effects on health professionals was alarming and contributed to the fear. Fortunately Australia is in a considerably improved state of affairs now but all of these valid concerns played heavily on mental health wellbeing in the early days of the pandemic response.
To date Australia has been extremely successful in the management of the COVID-19 and flattening the curve. As we continue to navigate through these strange times during the coming months and seek to avoid a second wave of COVID-19 infections, we must also remember not to neglect our mental wellbeing and seek help when needed.
With very little warning nurses and midwives on the frontline have been vital in the preparedness of responding to this global pandemic. We should not underestimate the toll COVID-19 has had on mental health. Whilst feelings of fear, anxiety, grief and loss are normal during these times as we adapt to the many changes in our life, it is important to seek extra help when needed. It is crucial that we support each other and reach out to those peers who may be struggling and in need of help.
If you or your colleagues need support now or in the future I have included some valuable support networks for you to consider below.
NURSE AND MIDWIFE HEALTH PROGRAM VICTORIA (NMHPV) is a free, independent and confidential support service for Victorian nurses, midwives and students of nursing and midwifery experiencing health issues related to their mental health.
Ph: (03) 9415 7551 (BH) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
NURSE & MIDWIFE SUPPORT:
Available 24/7 nationwide on 1800 667 877 or nmsupport.org.au
BEYOND BLUE’S CORONAVIRUS MENTAL WELLBEING SUPPORT SERVICE:
1800 512 348
BLACK DOG INSTITUTE’S specifi c online, 24-hour-available e-health hub: