The perception of primary healthcare professionals in front of uncertainty about the new COVID-19 infections

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Camila Melo de Freita, a medical student from Faculdade Pitágoras de Eunápolis (2018-2024), graduated in Business Administration from Faculdade Ruy Barbosa – FRB (2015), Brazil. She 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 writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Since February 2020, the world has been experiencing the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This disease has caused several impacts on the world’s population, especially on health professionals. The sudden onset of an unknown illness puts extreme pressure on health professionals, leaving them fearful of how to act.

In addition, with the real possibility of reinfection, even after administering two doses of the vaccine for COVID-19, brought back concerns, especially for these workers, about exposure to risk, especially to the more aggressive variants. In this way, it can be said that the COVID-19 pandemic is capable of affecting the mental health of health workers who are on the front line, making them more vulnerable to mental health problems, for example, such as fear, depression and anxiety.

In this context, the objective of the present study was to analyze the feelings of health professionals who work on the front line, in a Basic Health Unit (UBS) in the extreme south of Bahia, in relation to the risk of being infected by COVID-19. During the return to the tasks carried out in a UBS in the extreme south of Bahia, a semi-structured questionnaire was applied to employees in order to investigate their point of view on aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the interviewees, 100% were adults (aged between 29 and 57 years old). 50% of people had previously been infected with COVID-19, being diagnosed by RT-PCR. Of the interviewees, only 12.5% did not feel safe to return to their activities, however, all reported fear of (re)infection despite being in favor of returning to work. They explained that even with fear, they knew that patients needed follow-up to prevent sequelae and decompensation of comorbidities.

The uncertainties about the COVID-19 infection and the multiple forms of evolution make health professionals, who are on the front line daily, more afraid of the consequences of exposure. Indeed, the presence of specific stressors during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the risk of becoming infected, caring for socially isolated relatives at home, and concerns about the physical and mental health conditions of co-workers, resulted in repercussions psychological.

There are factors that heighten fear, such as speculation about how the virus is transmitted, its rapid spread and the absence of definitive treatment protocols or a 100% effective vaccine. It was noted that, initially, the vaccine was a hope to alleviate fear, however with the appearance of cases in individuals who took both doses of the vaccine, this negative feeling was brought back and in a more intense way.

Thus, given the progression of the pandemic, it is still believed that many professionals will be infected, so it is essential that mental health care be implemented in order to prevent psychic disorders, which can generate harmful effects in the long term. So it is observed that the pandemic caused by the SARS-COV-2 virus is causing an unprecedented psychological impact on health professionals, who are already exposed to stressful work conditions on a daily basis. 

About the author

Camila Melo de Freitas is medical student from Faculdade Pitágoras de Eunápolis (2018-2024), graduated in Business Administration from Faculdade Ruy Barbosa – FRB (2015), graduated in Physiotherapy from Centro Universitário da Bahia – FIB (2008), Specialist in Dermato-functional Physiotherapy from University of Ribeirão Preto – UNAERP (2009), worked as a volunteer physiotherapist in Cork-Ireland and has extensive experience in scientific texts

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