More than 400 million cases and six million deaths from Covid were reported in early March. The sobering numbers are a stark reminder of the unrelenting nature of the pandemic that is now entering its third year. And while masks are being shed, restrictions eased, and travel being resumed, the narrative for frontline and healthcare workers hasn’t changed much, with the latest Omicron variant bringing in a major influx of cases around the world.
The world has seen a tsunami of infections and each new variant has brought a surge in cases, the effect of which has been most felt by those in the healthcare industry. Avoiding the virus is no longer an option, and for healthcare as well as aged-care workers, it probably never was. Doctors, nurses, and staff have plunged themselves deep into this pandemic and have shown extreme resilience, working tirelessly round the clock, taking regular tests, donning PPE gear, and being a force of reassurance for millions.
But it all came with a cost.
Keeping up with the demands of life during the pandemic hasn’t been easy, leading to extreme exhaustion, chronic workplace stress, and accumulative trauma. Covid fatigue is hitting the industry hard. Instead of replenishing themselves, aged-care workers are being asked to climb the next highest peak. While the first step is acknowledging that Covid fatigue has set in, here are a few tips to help ease the enormous emotional toll faced by the aged-care industry.
- Prioritising mental health and well-being: Heavy workloads, long shifts, and working in a high-risk environment has resulted in burnout, depression, and other illnesses, which have a negative impact on the mental health and well-being of workers. Hence, it is of vital importance to ensure that aged-care workers practise self-care.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, as most healthcare and aged-care professionals are trained to put patients first, self-awareness and self-compassion is the first line of defence for workers to prevent burnout.
- Communicating: It is important to have honest conversations with colleagues, whether it is to talk about frustrations and anxieties or small wins of the day. It is equally important to work together as a team and to regularly check in with each other. Communicating helps in identifying the pain points and providing the necessary support the team requires. A simple ‘How’s your week been going?’ can go a long way.
Employers in the aged-care industry should also focus on making resources and information on the ever-changing Covid situation readily available to ensure the team swiftly transitions through the constantly evolving pandemic restrictions and healthcare practices.
- Regularly assessing workloads: When an outbreak reaches its peak in a community, it hits the aged-care industry, too, with nurses, and staff often testing positive for the virus.
Shifts have to be changed at a moment’s notice, and while in such situations the workload is shared among limited staff, it is essential to reassess the work from time to time to ensure long shifts are punctuated by regular breaks to avoid burnout.
- Three-minute ritual: At the end of each shift—or when things get too overwhelming—remember to pause and take three deep breaths and make a mental note (or even better, grab a pen and paper) of the three things during the day that went well.
- Positive affirmation: It is important to remember that you are doing the best you can every day and that you are making a difference. It is easy to feel a bit defeated after working erratic and long hours, but everyone working in the aged-care industry is doing their part in this pandemic, saving lives, and helping the world cope with the virus.