After COVID crisis: Burnout in Healthcare Workers

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Aimen Rabbani, a 23-year-old medical student, enrolled in Quaid e Azam Medical college, Pakistan. 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 writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

COVID 19 is one of the most challenging situations that healthcare professionals faced in a long time. The rapid spread of the virus and the high mortality level throughout the globe was un-predicted. The sustainability of life that already had been deteriorating was amplified in the worst way imaginable. Burnout is a psychological condition that develops as a protracted reaction to ongoing interpersonal pressures at work. The overwhelming tiredness, the sensation of scepticism and detachment from the job, and lack of accomplishment are the main components of this response.More recently it has been added to list of international diseases by WHO due to rising emergency. Burn out of medical professionals is taken quite seriously as it does not affects on individual level. If such a person is still allowed to work in excessive work hours, they are likely to put patients at risk of negligence. This is more pronounced for junior doctors and new interns who are not familiar with coping strategies.The bigger question here is why burnout in health professionals is acknowledged after the pandemic. COVID 19 burn out has become a major mental health crisis. For healthcare professionals, global pandemic still remains. The disparity of symptoms and variants of COVID 19, kept the doctors wide awake. While lockdown lasted for a year or two for most of us but the front line workers are still in war with the emerging crisis of COVID.  Besides already collapsing healthcare and over worked doctors, emotional instability, financial and social unbalance also became source of their ultimate distress.  Burnout was kept un-acknowledged among other crisis after COVID 19 especially in healthcare professionals. This resulted in delayed and unguided management of stress and thus burnout. A more systemized way of managing burnout before it became disruptive was to detect it early and treat it at the earliest. There are authorized and well founded scales that measure burnout. According to these scales, one can measure the degree of burnout which can guide the treatment.

As it is said, greater the trauma, greater the resilience. In developing countries like Pakistan healthcare professionals have been working under extreme working conditions. It brought two perspectives to light. One, is that such individuals were better adapted to short staff and facilities so the pandemic recession was manageable which made them resilient to burn out. Second is, after being suffered from irreparable loss of loved ones and incapability triggered a traumatic response which made them resilient to harsh environment. Both cases were realized n healthcare community which made us to realize the phenomenon of resilience. Resilience could be both a weapon and treatment to stress. It’s our body’s defence against harsh environment. It is now recognized that stress is indirectly related to burnout through resilience. Moreover it is also a factor in managing stress. But it all depends on early detection and guided treatment of burnout so that resilience becomes beneficial to healthcare workers if we ever face such a calamity again.

About the author

Aimen Rabbani is a 23-year-old medical student, enrolled in Quaid e Azam Medical college, Pakistan. She is an enthusiastic member of IFMSA PAKISTAN since 2019 and aspires to bring positivity into this world through it. She likes to learn new things and believes that with every new emerging sun there is always a chance to do over. She believes that in empowering young medical professionals to break old narratives and bring strength to healthcare as they are the leaders of tomorrow. She likes to call herself an environmentalist because of her cosmic love for plants and anything green. 

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