Our health workforce: A light in the dark

(Hosein Zanbori, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Lisbeth R. Sosa Pinedo, a fifth-year medical student at the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña (UNPHU) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


‘‘We make a living by what we getbut we make a life by what we give’’- Winston Churchill

At present day, health care workers (HCWs) are the pillars of national health systems, furthermore, ensuring the well-being of those people who work in the hospitals day by day translates into greater efficiency and quality of care for those in need. HCWs need protection from all types of workplace hazards that may appear during the shifts, and reducing the odds for harm from these occupational risks must be a priority, but, aside from that HCWs are frequently viewed as “immune” to injury or stress. Indeed, health-protecting health-care workers have the added benefit of contributing to quality patient care and health system strengthening (1).

During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, emphasis on occupational health is fundamental for HCWs and optimal patient care. These additional demands on national health systems require a call to action to prioritize HCWs’ safety. Some actions that can be taken are: First, to prepare them with the necessary biosafety equipment, for instance: masks, eye protection, gloves, among other disposable materials, insist on the correct and adequate handwashing protocols before and after touching and monitoring each patient, which are well defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). Second, online short courses on how to properly take off and put on this equipment, by this way we ensure the safety of our workforce in the work environment, and finally, ensure their health during the shifts in the hospital, that means, that immediately any of the health care team presents any symptoms indicative of infectious contagious disease, it is the duty of the supervisor in charge of sending them home and doing the necessary tests, to avoid contagion to the co-workers. As a medical student in the Dominican Republic, I have observed that our national health care system still growing and that all of the efforts that have been done of quarantine, social distancing, and isolation have demonstrated efficacy and that this measures must be performed in order to guide the epidemiologic curve where it needs to be.

Collaborative efforts across national health systems are essential, from HCW’s to medical students, and the general population. Hence, if we raise awareness in our population and practice more primary and secondary prevention, we greatly reduce the burden on the health care system. It is a commitment of all to avoid the collapse of our health systems and countries, to reduce the morbidity and mortality of many conditions that are easily avoidable. Strengthen teamwork and advocate for the physical and mental health of our workers because of the regular donning and doffing of full personal protective equipment, fatigue, and psychological stress (2). Insist in hand and environmental hygiene and protection measures, doing so, we not only help ourselves but everyone else that could be exposed, this would lead to a marked decrease in the contagious and disease curve. Giving the health system time to raise the line and be able to offer adequate care to all those who need the service at a certain time.

References

  1. World Health Organization. Health workers [Internet]. [cited 2020 Aug 21]. Available from: https://www.who.int/occupational_health/topics/hcworkers/en/
  • Gan, W. H., Lim, J. W., Koh, D. Preventing intra-hospital infection and transmission of COVID-19 in healthcare workers. Safety and Health at Work. 2020 11:241-243

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Dr. Helena Chapman and Dr. Yessi Alcántara for their mentorship throughout the manuscript preparation. We acknowledge the support from IFMSA-Dominican Republic to develop medical education workshops that strengthen skill-based learning.

About the author

Lisbeth R. Sosa Pinedo is a fifth-year medical student at the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña (UNPHU) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She is an active member of the Standing Committee on Research Exchange (SCORE) of ODEM-Dominican Republic. She also serves as president of the UNPHU chapter of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA).

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