Looking After Yourself On The Frontline

Our Director of Psychosocial Services GRAHAM FAWCETT with some guidance for working on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic.

So, this is mad. It’s a normal day at work just at lightening speed, with impossible decisions, an unseen virus trying to harm you, plus family or friends not thrilled at the idea you’re at work and might bring something bad home with you – assuming you come home at all that is.

Your patients, clients, beneficiaries come first. They always do. Yet you know that you’re less help to them when they’re exhausted or incapacitated.

Your team comes first. They always do. Yet you’re no good to them either when exhausted or incapacitated. And this isn’t a one-off, difficult night shift. This is every day for the coming months.

In the microseconds between canula, vent, next patient, notes and another least-worst decision, your thoughts swirl. And that’s the medics – but you’re in a refugee camp, a WASH programme, a TB unit……

The pressure builds. Which it will.  Top tips?  There’s a few from the last hundred times we all did this.

  • Drink fluids – whenever you can. If it’s there, drink it. If it’s not there, find it. Not drinking slows you down fast and you won’t notice.   
  • Sleep. Under the desk is fine. In the chair, head on the desk – also fine.  An hour will do it. It’s not enough, but it’ll do for now.
  • Pay deep attention to the ones who recover. They do. Those are your successes.   Recall them walking out well. That wasn’t luck – that was you and the team.
  • Go home for a while. If you can’t go home, then phone home. Just agree you’re not going to be asked dumb questions. Read a story over the phone or make one up for the kiddies. Tell your partner you love them and tell them yes, it’s crap. Find something you can both see – the moon, the sun, a mountain – and look at it together.
  • Know that you’re a hero/heroine to those outside. Suck it up. You think you’re a failure, but you showed up and they know it.
  • If you’re drifting towards needing the bottle or the packet: tell someone. You’re going to drink and smoke, or at least want to. It’s your choice. But it’s important to talk.
  • Communicate and rotate. Talk out loud about what needs to be said; do different things – you don’t have to be the hero/heroine all of the time – give someone else a chance.
  • Try huddling with your team now and again. At the start and end of the day – talk about what is going to happen, or what just happened. Say it out loud – to the only ones who know what you’re talking about.
  • Stay away from the news. Two things. It’s mostly wrong – they’re not seeing what you’re seeing, so it will wind you up.  Secondly – it’s more bad news and that’s just depressing. Which is also a wind-up.
  • Laugh out loud. It will help. The humour around you is beyond dark. Good.
  • You may either hate God or love God right now – tell Him or Her all about it.
  • Hang on to the notion that one day this will all end. The sun will come out and people will mingle again. Did you save everyone? No. Did you save people who would have died had you not acted? Yes. And that’s enough.

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