Systemic Impact of Coronavirus – PTSD for Nurses and Doctors
Covid-19 has wreaked havoc in our medical system. And the systemic effect of PTSD for nurses and doctors is being overlooked.
In addition to the “normal” exposure of trauma that first responders “sign up for,”. We must consider that since the pandemic began, first responders have witnessed more loss, fear, and / or vicarious trauma than they have ever prepared for in their training.
For those of you who live with and love doctors, nurses, CNAs, mental health workers, military, firefighters, EMS workers, etc. We thank you for being here to gather information on how to support the ones you love.
What does Trauma Look Like for First Responders:
I work with many people in the medical field (as do my colleagues) who are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the things I focus on in my practice is trauma – and it is really clear to me that this population is undergoing trauma.
- lack of self care
- hypervigilance (on edge, jumpy)
- constantly tired
- perseverating or not being able to let something go
- responses that appear more intense (something is mild and it is seen as highly stressful)
- not engaging in taking care of basic needs
- sleep issues (too much or too little)
The Trauma of Treating in the Age of COVID-19
Some of my clients do not see their families due to safety concerns. Some have watched patients dying and needing to sit with them as their families are not able to be with them, being inundated with cases without support, resources, and enough gear.
One of the biggest struggles I have heard from my clients is the level of uncertainty experienced when this pandemic hit.
Various medical professionals were scared of transmitting the illness and having more suffer the same fate of many. Seeing the lack of resources (beds, PPE, equipment, and information) lead to high levels of uncertainty and fear resulting in many medical professionals experiencing high levels of trauma.
As the statistics reduced in New York and Connecticut, and its surrounding areas, many first responders finally began to feel the up tick in stress.
When someone is going through trauma and in survival mode, it can be VERY difficult to be able to notice the level of stress. This pandemic and the impact on the medical field is an example of this because it is a chronic trauma.
How Can We All Help?
As we begin to see the numbers climbing again, I imagine our medical field will be re-traumatized. If you are a medical professional, first responder, or love someone who is here are some ways to consider supporting them:
- Allow time to vent
- Complete acts of service for the first responders (bringing them food or something to drink, running errands, etc)
- Reduce stimulation at home
- Focus on basic needs such as sleep, eating, and hydration
- Hold compassion for the first responders
- Focus on recharging and building a set of tools and resources to help
- Try to be flexible and adaptive to allow your love one to check in with themselves and their needs
- Ask for what you need and/or how you can support them
- Do not bombard them with lots of information, try to slow things down
- Take care of yourselves!
These skills are important for everyone because if you are a first responder and experiencing trauma these tips will be useful for you. For those of you who support first responders, you are at risk of “vicarious” trauma or “secondary” trauma from hearing stories or experiences from your loved one.
Please make sure you take care of yourself, knowing your limits, and communicating. Many client are seeking our support at LCAT to help learn ways to cope through this time.
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