COVID-19 changed every area of people’s ordinary life across the world, including education, art, sports, and the way they work and receive healthcare services. For a long period of time, medical workers and nurses had to cope with severe burnout, overworking, and danger associated with COVID-19 infection. However, this drastic change in the perspective of their work affected many people in healthcare in terms of mental health. Even though two years have passed since the pandemic’s beginning, many healthcare specialists still experience anxiety, stress, or other issues. The problem of medical workers’ mental health needs to be raised and discussed to relieve their burden.
In 2010, the Healthy People 2020 objectives were launched by the Department of Health and Human Services. These four goals were “high-quality, longer lives, free of any disabilities, achieving health equity, creating environments for everyone’s good health, and promoting quality of life across all life stages” (Department of Health and Human Services, 2010). The healthcare industry, however, was not ready for a public health crisis such as a coronavirus pandemic. Ninety-three percent of healthcare workers reported feeling stress these months, and eighty-six percent experienced anxiety (Mental Health America, 2020). About seventy-five percent felt frustrated, emotionally and physically exhausted, and overwhelmed by COVID-19 changes (Mental Health America, 2020). Thus, the majority of the respondents experienced significant mental health issues during and after the pandemic.
In terms of legal and regulatory issues, the healthcare workers faced difficulties in following specific legal standards such as, for example, Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. This act requires hospitals engaged in Medicaid to provide emergency examinations and treatment to individuals with acute symptoms (Russo et al., 2020). It was reinforced in March 2020 to state that healthcare organizations may not refuse anyone to provide medical assistance, and that placed even more responsibility and stress on the healthcare workers (Russo et al., 2020). With shortage of professional health providers and constantly increasing amounts of incoming patients, nurses and physicians were forced to work overtime in dangerous and stressful conditions.
The practice has shown that pre-existing guidelines of treating patients with pulmonary diseases were not effective in case of COVID-19. From this point, advanced practice issues arose – for example, ventilator associated pneumonia in patients who received mechanical ventilation of lungs in the ICU. According to Papazian et al. (2020), “reported incidences of VAP vary widely from 5 to 40%, and the estimated attributable mortality is around 10%, with higher mortality rates in surgical ICU patients” (p. 888). High severity and mortality, as well as a significant increase in the consumption of material resources in the event of VAP contribute to the necessity of the development of new preventive measures. Such problems arose at many levels and stages of care, and healthcare workers had to resolve them on the spot.
All of the discussed issues demonstrate that not every Healthy People 2020 objective was present in healthcare providers’ coronavirus routine.The healthcare workers’ needs were not fully covered, especially during the beginning and the peak of pandemic, and their lives were often endangered. Two years have passed but the knowledge about policies to prevent mental health issues during a coronavirus pandemic is limited.
Healthcare sector has been and continues to develop specific strategies that target the burnout and depression associated with working in the industry, especially during a pandemic. Among those strategies are the self-care and mental health programs to support the workers, as well as the removal of obstacles to mental health therapy access. Such approach has proven to be effective as it offers a wider reach to the mental health assistive means and provides healthcare workers with specific algorithms to reduce stress and burnout. In addition to that, it could be advised to use staff expansion to allocate responsibilities and reduce the emotional and physical load on the healthcare workers. Currently, the world is recovering from the pandemic, and new legislations are being discussed. Thus, it could be also beneficial for the industry to design legislative changes that would better support workers’ rights in case of another public health crisis.
Department of Health and Human Services. (2010). Healthy people 2020. CDC. Web.
Mental Health America. (2020). The mental health of healthcare workers in COVID-19. MHNational. Web.
Papazian, L., Klompas, M., & Luyt, C.-E. (2020). Ventilator-associated pneumonia in adults: A narrative review. Intensive Care Medicine, 46(5), 888–906.
Russo, S. J., Davino, M. J., & Brodie, A. (2020). Coronavirus (COVID-19) legal issues for healthcare organizations. LexisNexis. Web.