“Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.” - Sir Winston Churchill
This is the first line of text in a recent journal article entitled “Fighting fear in healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic”. As terror spreads among workers in the health sector because of the raging SARS-Cov-2 infection, caring for patients has become even more challenging for healthcare staff.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pandemics can cause severe stress that can affect one’s physical and mental health. It can cause fear of catching the virus, being sick, and eventually giving it to your loved ones. There is also great concern over continuously providing care even with a lack of resources, such as when there is a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Stigma, which is the negative way people view a frontline worker who potentially has the virus, is another big stressor.
Overwhelming fear and anxiety can cause strong emotions, especially if you’ve seen loved ones or patients get sick or die because of COVID-19. If you find yourself crying, breaking down, and utterly scared, and you feel that you want to give up your job as a CNA, it is perfectly normal. It only takes a little chat with your colleagues to know that you are not alone.
Take a moment to yourself. Sit back and seriously attend to your thoughts and feelings before it can affect your job and risk your safety and that of your patient’s. Here are some ways to help you cope:
1. Acknowledge your feelings.
Your wretched emotional state during this pandemic is valid. Beating yourself up with guilt when you feel scared will only make things worse because it can distract you from safe patient care.
2. Assure yourself that you can handle this type of crisis.
Getting certified as a nursing assistant means that you understand the risk of being exposed to certain diseases as you care for patients. Also, your license is a reminder that your education and training has prepared you to avoid being infected and passing on the virus to others. By strictly following infection control protocols, you can safely carry on with patient care.
3. Ramp up your infection control habits.
This is not the time to be relaxed on handwashing and the proper use of PPEs. COVID-19 is highly transmissible. The main problem here is that the enemy is invisible so it is better to assume that the virus could be anywhere. Be on your guard at all times. Mind the way you wash your hands and what you touch afterward. Don't forget to wear a mask and other PPEs as applicable when seeing patients. Maintain social distancing. Avoid unnecessary social interaction and always follow agency policies for infection control to the dot.
4. Know that your service is invaluable and can save lives.
The COVID-19 pandemic is cruel to human lives and being in the frontlines doing patient care is considered heroic. You are instrumental in keeping the enemy at bay. Your help is precious and is greatly appreciated.
5. Take a break from news and social media posts that feature frightening COVID-19-related sickness and deaths.
Instead, be inspired by those who have recovered. Be encouraged by stories about the dedication of other frontline workers. Read about ways to boost your immune system, such as the benefits of a good diet and adequate hydration, and then promise to love yourself more.
6. Find creative ways to interact with your loved ones especially if you have chosen to or are required to isolate yourself.
The harsh part of fighting this contagion is that it may be necessary for you to be temporarily separated from your family to prevent transmission. Thankfully, there are now many ways to reconnect with them through technology. With video calls, for example, you’ll be able to see and talk to your loved ones without being physically near them.
7. Seek help.
This fight is not yours alone and there are many ways to find support. The CDC has a list of contact numbers that you can reach should you need someone to talk to in this crisis.
When fear grips you and your desire to help, remember that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather, it is merely choosing to move forward even if the road ahead becomes more frightening. Be proud of yourself as a CNA because you are indeed a hero in these uncertain times!
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