Healthcare Workers’ Awareness, Attitudes, and Practices During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Without a question, the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the pandemic it caused have turned most people’s lives upside down. In less than a six-month period, social distancing, lockdowns, remote jobs, and many other new and unfamiliar activities, such as writing a COVID 19 essay at school, had become the standard. Although both of these have had a positive impact on people’s lives, the increased demand for certain workers and specialists has also resulted in a number of issues, including unemployment, increased stress, and burnout, to name a few. The most affected experts now appear to be the healthcare workers, whose knowledge, attitudes, and practices were largely disrupted by stress caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

As the official announcement of the novel and unstudied disease emerged from China at the end of 2019, the demand for healthcare workers started to gradually rise, yet no large disruptions have occurred. However, as the initial lockdowns in February and March of 2020 took place, the demand has risen sharply. As such, Lotfinejad, Peters, and Pittet back in March of 2020 reported that the general estimate of the World Health Organization stated that the global society would need around 9 million more nurses to meet the demand for healthcare services caused by the coronavirus pandemic (Lotfinejad, Peters, & Pittet, 2020). The demand for doctors and practicing physicians suddenly became much greater as well, with many practitioners reporting increased stress and an overall sense of burden in the spring of 2020 (Madsen et al., 2020). All of this points to the fact that the practices of healthcare operations have been altered significantly.

One of the greatest problems that occurred due to the increased demand discussed above related to the psychological well-being of all healthcare practitioners, without exception. As such, according to the research of Cecilia Vindrola-Padros and colleagues (2020) conducted in the UK, such signs of unpreparedness to the pandemic as the deficit of personal protective equipment (PPE) and lack of proper training caused severe anxiety and distress. All of this interrupted the normal flow of the practitioners’ work and prevented the provision of adequate healthcare services, which further caused additional stress (Vindrola-Padros et al., 2020). Hence, the stress from the new working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic related not only to the overall unexpected nature of the crisis but also due to the inability to work in the manner the healthcare practitioners became used to previously.

With further research, the negative tendency was observed in this regard. The recent American study published in September-October of 2020 by Ari Schechter and colleagues evidently demonstrates this notion. The researchers provided that, as of April 2020, more than 57% of medical workers experienced acute stress, with an additional 48% suffering from depression and 33% from anxiety during the initial stages of the disease spread in the U.S. (Schechter et al., 2020). Such a severe psychological state undoubtedly disrupts the normal flow of work of the medical workers and, thus, requires intervention, such as the reassessment of attitudes and practices. As such, the medical works should be allowed the time for the empirical and self-supported coping means of dealing with stress. These could be prolonged paid vacations and spaces for physical exercise, as mentioned in the work of Schechter and colleagues.

Nevertheless, some exceptions were reported as well. Although, the general unpreparedness caused some serious distress in medical workers, the availability of the required equipment, particularly the PPE, somewhat relieved the issue. As such, the report of M. H. Temsah and colleagues (2020), provided that the majority of Saudi medical professionals felt relatively confident at work due to the adequate stock of PPE. In addition, 40% of the workers reported their practical familiarity with the treatment of coronaviruses, particularly MERS-CoV first reported in 2012 (Temsah et al., 2020). Yet, such cases are rather exceptions, especially considering that the Saudi healthcare practitioners have already faced the initial stages of the outbreaks of such respiratory viruses as MERS-CoV before.

In general, the novel coronavirus disease has largely overturned the life of modern civilization, with healthcare practices and attitudes not being an exception. The statistic reports in many countries suggest that the healthcare practice is currently being largely disrupted by the stress the healthcare practitioners must face in their daily work. At the same time, the knowledge of viruses and the diseases related to them was largely reassessed as most countries of the world, with only a few exceptions, never faced such great scales of the life-threatening disease widespread. Nevertheless, such lessons will hopefully reform global healthcare for the better, and new practices and attitudes will emerge.

References

Lotfinejad, N., Peters, A., & Pittet, D. (2020). Hand hygiene and the novel coronavirus pandemic: the role of healthcare workers. Journal Of Hospital Infection, 105(4), 776-777. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhin.2020.03.017

Shechter, A., Diaz, F., Moise, N., Anstey, D., Ye, S., & Agarwal, S. et al. (2020). Psychological distress, coping behaviors, and preferences for support among New York healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. General Hospital Psychiatry, 66, 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2020.06.007

Temsah, M., Alhuzaimi, A., Alamro, N., Alrabiaah, A., Al-Sohime, F., & Alhasan, K. et al. (2020). Knowledge, attitudes and practices of healthcare workers during the early COVID-19 pandemic in a main, academic tertiary care centre in Saudi Arabia. Epidemiology And Infection, 148. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0950268820001958

Vindrola-Padros, C., Andrews, L., Dowrick, A., Djellouli, N., Fillmore, H., & Bautista Gonzalez, E. et al. (2020). Perceptions and experiences of healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. BMJ Open, 10(11), e040503. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-040503

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