A Call to Action for a Stronger Global Healthcare Workforce

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Dr. Vedant Shukla, an intern doctor from India with various passions ranging from Research, Global Surgery, SRHR, Mental Health, Public and Global Health. He is affiliated with 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.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has severely impacted many spheres of life and society as we know it, some quantifiable, some immeasurable. Health is not the only aspect of life that has borne the brunt of this malicious and elusive disease, housing, employment and even education have had disastrous outcomes. It has even caused a tectonic shift in the socio-cultural landscapes, pushing vulnerable and underserved communities and people further into the margins, exacerbating the already existing plethora of inequities. WHO research on Social Determinants of Health and Health Inequities show that these factors also affect health, not just physical but also mental and social health. 

The global youth has suffered disproportionately from the tremors of the pandemic and will feel its aftershock for years to come. With many investing substantially in higher education to obtain better paying jobs and to achieve a better quality of life, their ambitions and hopes have come to vain, with loss of employment and poor job prospects due to the economic repercussions of lockdown and restrictions. These restrictions also have dulled the ever dynamic life of young people, not being able to meet loved ones, share intimate life moments or even give them a hug. The lack of opportunity to attain economic stability and lead a fulfilling life, social isolation and touch starvation have had detrimental effects on the emotional and mental well-being of the youth, whose ripple effects will manifest for years to come.

There is a certain sub-section of this global youth that has but by far suffered the most during the pandemic, the youth of the global healthcare workforce including medical students, interns and resident doctors.

COVID-19 and the Global Healthcare Workforce Youth

In addition to all of the above stated effects of the pandemic except for unemployment, the youth of the global healthcare workforce are facing more crippling effects that are hampering their mental well-being. From poor to no payment for their labour in COVID-19 wards, to lack of Personal Protective Equipment(PPE) while serving and long gruelling working hours, all have played a role. Intern and resident doctors, even medical students are being shunted away from learning and academics to bolster response to surge of cases, depriving them of the quality medical education they deserve. The gargantuan number of deaths they have witnessed along with the increased frequency and severity of violence they have faced from relatives of patients, has only added to their grief in this pandemic.  

With poor mental healthcare infrastructure and access globally especially in LMICs, we have a mental health crisis looming in the global healthcare workforce, whose repercussions could not only impact the workforce but also those who they pledge to serve. This is a call to action to the governments, to invest in their workforce, the backbone of any healthcare system, to stop using young doctors and students as cheap and expendable labour, enforce laws and mechanisms that protect them from brute violence and to materialize their promise on strengthening healthcare systems including mental healthcare services.

About the author

Dr Vedant Shukla is an intern doctor from India with various passions ranging from Research, Global Surgery, SRHR, Mental Health, Public and Global Health. He has worked towards the same and actively contributed in the capacity of a member and various leadership roles at different organisations on a local, national and international level. He aspires to work as a future doctor and global health researcher and policy maker with a vision of a future where quality healthcare is accessible to all and looked upon as a fundamental human right.


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