Illness in health workers: when the caregiver becomes the patient

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Bruna C. Nichelatti, a 4th year medical student at the University of Blumenau (FURB), Brazil. 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.


“I solemnly pledge to dedicate my life to the service of humanity…”. The excerpt refers to the first sentence of the Declaration of Geneva, in which it emphasizes the health professional’s commitment to the health of the population, sometimes even before your own. Since early 2020, the health workers around the world started, perhaps, the greatest professional challenge of their lives. Unfortunately, these are times when your fears, physical and mental fatigue remains in the background.

With the rise of the pandemic, the race for hospital supplies such as masks, respirators and medications started. However, they were not always found. As a result, the number of patients and health demands increased and people began to die because of the lack of hospitals rooms. The population needed to stay at home, but health workers remained there. These professionals are not immune, not to mention they can’t be bought in factories – we have to remember that they can become patients too. So, how is it possible to maintain the patient’s well-being without taking care of his caregiver?

The health team gives the best when its members feel good, from the chief physician of the service to the cleaning professional. Thus, to provide the care that the patients need, the team have to be physically and mentally well, besides of feeling safe with personal protective equipment. It’s also important that they spend time with family and friends. This investment in the health of the team influences the group work. If this component does not work, the result is negatively affected. In Brazil, up to 78.4% of resident doctors were identified with Burnout Syndrome before COVID-19, numbers that probably increased after the current context¹. Regarding illness by COVID-19, about 20% of people who fell ill were health professionals². From this, we realize that health workers have been ill for a long time.

Finally, more than ever, it became clear that the need for dedication to the welfare of health workers. These professionals are essential from birth to illness, but just as everyone, they deserve attention and care.

References

1. SILVEIRA, A. L. P; COLLETA, T. C. D; ONO, H. R. B; WOITAS, L. R; SOARES, S. H; ANDRADE, V. L. A; ARAUJO, L. A. Síndrome de Burnout: consequências e implicações de uma realidade cada vez mais prevalente na vida dos profissionais de saúde. Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Trabalho, Belo Horizonte, V. 14, n. 3, p. 275-84, 2016.


2. RIBEIRO, Adalgisa Peixoto et al. Saúde e segurança de profissionais de saúde no atendimento a pacientes no contexto da pandemia de Covid-19: revisão de literatura. Rev. bras. saúde ocup.,  São Paulo ,  v. 45,  e25,    2020 .   Available from <http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0303-76572020000101600&lng=en&nrm=iso&gt;. access on  25  Aug.  2020.  Epub Aug 12, 2020.  https://doi.org/10.1590/2317-6369000013920.

About the author

Bruna C. Nichelatti is a 4th year medical student at the University of Blumenau (FURB), Brazil. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Student Associations. Her aim is to combine graduation with scientific development and philanthropy, forming a doctor who acts on science while not forgetting the love of neighbor.

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