Supporting a Coworker with an Emotional ‘Virus’


Article Categories: Diseases & Environment



The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it. SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the novel disease, COVID-19, has overwhelmed healthcare systems in many states and workers are feeling the devastation of the onslaught of this unrelenting virus.

Since the start of the pandemic early this year, more than 900 deaths of healthcare workers due to COVID-19 have been documented in the US alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report also states that from February 12th to April 9th of this year, a total of 9,282 healthcare professionals in the US got infected. As of this writing, we do not have the exact figure of COVID-related sickness and deaths as the numbers keep growing by the minute.

COVID-19 is a very infectious disease that tends to be more severe in older people and those with chronic health conditions such as hypertension and diabetes. Frontliners who care for infected patients are also at high risk of getting the disease because of constant exposure. This, and the current problem on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortages, staff burnout and exhaustion, and the fear of being infected, has taken its toll on the emotional states of healthcare workers, including those of nursing assistants.

During pandemics, the stress levels of healthcare workers can be at an all-time high. Stressed employees show strong emotions, such as anger, irritability, anxiousness, and fear.

If you are an active CNA, what are you feeling right now? Is the stress of the pandemic wreaking havoc on your once-unwavering strength? Do you have colleagues who are scared and depressed? Even if you are in the same boat as the rest of your team, can you still become a beacon of light and offer support.

Yes, you can!

What you can do to offer emotional support:

Although you are overwhelmed and stressed yourself, you can still lift each other's morale by following these tips:

1. Encourage co-workers to talk about their fears and anxieties.

Talk openly about how COVID-19 has affected the way you work. Find solutions together. Remember how you encourage patients to talk about their feelings to help them feel better? You can do the same with a stressed co-worker. Letting a co-worker voice out their negative sentiments can help relieve their heavy emotional baggage.

2. Acknowledge their feelings.

Tell an overwhelmed and exhausted colleague that what they are going through right now is difficult and that they are not alone. Even if you are feeling low yourself, your words of encouragement can do wonders and make them feel reassured.

3. Help your colleague accept things that cannot be changed or those that they don’t have control over.

Seeing an unusually high number of sick patients who take a turn for the worse and succumb to the disease can lead to feelings of incompetence and hopelessness. By telling your co-worker that they did their best amidst disappointing news can help send a message that there are limits as to what they can do to help a patient.

4. Stay with them and let your presence be a reassurance.

It doesn’t matter if it’s just a few minutes or a few seconds… when being with colleagues when they are at their lowest, they will appreciate your gesture and feel your concern. This is a two-way benefit because you’ll also feel connected yourself.

5. Have a moment of silence with them outdoors while on the way home.

Take a breather together. This tip is highly important because it’s a chance to separate oneself from the constant bad news. It’s taking some time off to rid oneself of fears. This way, you’d be able to help your colleague reset and tame their emotional state.

6. Suggest that they take a break from depressing COVID-related news.

Social media, television, and radios will have endless threads of depressing news about the sick, the dying, and the uncomfortable life in the 'new normal'. And while such news can be informative, it can also dampen the spirit even more. Tell your co-worker it’s ok to detach themselves momentarily from the sad realities brought about by the pandemic. They can try watching relaxing or uplifting videos instead.

7. If you suspect that your colleague is misusing alcohol or drugs to cope, help them find professional help.

Extreme tension can push a person to rely unhealthily on alcohol and illegal substances as a way to deal with their strong emotions. Dependence on these substances can drastically affect their physical health. If such is the case, offer to help your co-worker reach out to therapists and counselors.

8. Remind your co-workers that they are heroes in this difficult time.

Nursing assistants who dare to brave it out, even if they are scared, are considered heroes. Telling your co-workers that they are doing a great job can boost their morale and give them another ounce of strength.

COVID-related stress is indeed a huge obstacle to overcome. You may feel overwhelmed yourself, but it should not stop you from offering emotional support to a co-worker who needs it the most.

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