COVID-19: the role of healthcare providers

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Dr. Shahzad Yaqoob

Despite this, physicians, nurses, and other health professionals across the world, and in many other countries, have been addressing the medical realities of this pandemic in a way that should make every one of us health professionals proud.

It is now time for healthcare providers to practice and endorse appropriate transmission-reducing behavior for the general public. This will help us return to a more normal lifestyle as soon as possible, and will also help us reduce the overall morbidity/mortalityassociated with this pandemic.

Physicians need to be reassuring but realistic, and there are concrete steps that we can take to demonstrate to the general public that there is a way forward.

First the basic fact, that Pakistan does not have enough intensive care beds or ventilators to handle a major pandemic. We will also have insufficient physicians and nurses if many are quarantined. The tragic experience in Italy, where patients are dying from lack of ventilators, intensive care facilities, and staff, must not be avoided and repeated here.

Many health systems across the world are canceling or reducing outpatient appointments and increasingly using telehealth technologies, especially for assessing and triaging people who believe that they may have become infected and are relatively asymptomatic. While all of the disruptions may seem unsettling, they are actually good news for those of us in healthcare.

Efforts to “flatten the curve” will slow the infection spread and help us better manage patients who become critical.

So, what can healthcare providersdo?

  1. Make sure you are getting good and most importantly reliable informationabout the current situation. Access reliable information and data that are widely available through the national and internationalhealth regulatory authorities. Listen to professional news organizations, local and national. Pass this information to your patients, family, friends,and community.
  2. Obviously, when practicing clinically, follow all infection control protocols, which will inevitably change over time. Make it clear to your patients why you are following these protocols and procedures.
  3. Support and actively promote public health responsesto this pandemic. Systematic reviews of the evidence base have found that isolating ill persons, testing and tracing contacts, quarantining exposed persons, closing schools and workplaces, and avoiding crowding is more effective if implemented efficiently and with high community compliance.
  4. Practice social distancingso that you remain as much in control as you can. This will make you feel psychologically better and safer, as well as reduce the risk of transmission.
  5. Take the essential precautionary measures that we are all being asked to take. Wash your hands. Do not shake hands. Clean shared items. Do not go to large public gatherings. Minimize large group travel as much as you can. Use of technology in seeing and assessing your patients.
  6. Connect and re-connect with your family and friends. Speak to them on the phone and nourish those relationships. See how they feel and care for each other. They will be worried about you. Reassure them. Be in the moment with them and use the importance of these relationships to give yourself a chance not to overthink any fears you might have.
  7. Look after yourself physically. Physical fitness is good for your mental health. Take the weekend off and don’t work excessively. Sleep well—at least 7-8 hours. Usedigital platforms for meditation and relaxation methods.
  8. Do not panic. Uncertainty surrounding the pandemic makes all of us anxious and afraid. It is normal to become hyper-vigilant, especially with our nonstop media. It is normal to be concerned when we feel out of control and when we are hearing about a possible future catastrophe, especially when fed with differing sets of information from multiple sources and countries.
  9. Be careful with any large decisions you are making that may affect the lives of yourself and your loved ones. Think about your decisions and try to take the long view; and run them by your spouse, partner, or friends. This is not a time to be making sudden big decisions that may be driven unconsciously, in part at least, by fear and anxiety.
  10. Realize that all of these societal disruptions are actually good for us in healthcare, and they help your family and friends understand the importance of slowing the disease’s spread. That’s good for healthcare and good for everyone.

Finally, remember that we have to look after ourselves so that we can take care of our patients. We should all be proud of our work and our caring. And we should model our personal behavior to our patients and to our families and friends so that they will model it to their community networks. That way, more people will keep well, and we will have more chance of “flattening the curve” and reducing the morbidity and mortality associated with COVID-19.

Dr. Shahzad Yaqoob writes medical documents for health care professionals, patients, and the public.His mission is to produce high-quality medical content by communicating clinical messages clearly and accurately. He continues in his work in Orthopedics Dept. at Hafr Al-Batin Central Hospital (HCH), in the Ministry of Health (MOH),KSA.