“Self-Care in an Interdisciplinary World” by Project Medicina. (Image courtesy of Project Medicina)

Coronavirus Coverage

Why We Matter: Healing among healthcare workers after COVID-19

We are all healing. We are healing from one of the toughest years in human history. This year, we have relied on different forms of self-care to heal ourselves and the others around us. It will take a while, but we can do it with an amazing support system and high level of self-awareness. There…
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/shaunthomas18/" target="_self">Shaun Thomas</a>

Shaun Thomas

August 4, 2021

We are all healing. We are healing from one of the toughest years in human history.

This year, we have relied on different forms of self-care to heal ourselves and the others around us. It will take a while, but we can do it with an amazing support system and high level of self-awareness.

There are many types of self-care that can be categorized into different sections based on what one should focus on when taking care of themself. The seven “types” of self-care include emotional, practical, physical, mental, social, spiritual self-care and professional self-care.

Emotional-self care includes activities, such as seeing a therapist or writing in a journal, that helps an individual connect and reflect on a variety of emotions. Practical self-care includes activities, such as creating a budget or organizing your closet, that fulfill core aspects of one’s life so one can deal with stress or alleviate stressful situations for the future.

Physical self-care sounds exactly what you think it is: activities that help improve the well-being of your physical health such as taking a walk or taking a nap. Social self-care is activities that help make or strengthen relationships with others in life, including going on a date or FaceTiming a friend.

Do people always wonder what healthcare workers do when it comes to self-care as they are viewed as the ones who “have the knowledge to fix themselves?” The pandemic has exposed the flaws in our healthcare system while it was taking a toll on our mental health.

The World Health Organization highlights what we can do better to fit the needs of both healthcare workers and patients in its safety charter.  This charter includes improving mental health, protecting workers from biological hazards more effectively, protecting workers from violence more effectively, advancing national programs for health worker safety and connecting newer health worker safety policies to existing patient safety policies.

They have recognized that health care workers are at a higher risk of infection compared to the rest of the general population. One would assume emotions would be hard to handle as a healthcare professional for many, after going to school for such a long time, come out of school with debt, then go into the toughest fields watching people struggle with their own health.

Along with the psychological stress this battle has put on them, they come home tired from work not available to do anything they enjoy, as they have to be careful and follow COVID protocols even in their home.

It is important that we prioritize the health of our healthcare workers and ensure that the healthcare workforce is properly trained to tackle problems of the future, realizing that the healthcare system is shifting to a more interdisciplinary environment.

The skill of emotional intelligence has also become more important than ever. Emotional intelligence can be defined as the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions and recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others. We think of everyone involved in such a prestigious field to be full of brains and to be able to communicate and perform efficiently at the highest level.

This occurred pre-COVID. However, a lot of healthcare workers have struggled with that, despite the importance of such a skill in such an important field due to the pandemic putting extra strain on something so vital to our world. The extra pressure has made it harder on everyone. It is not the fault of any individual rather the system showing that it was not built for battling a pandemic.

After all, most complaints about physician care don’t refer to clinical incompetence, but rather poor communication. We are starting to realize that patient care is becoming more holistic, and that EI varies vastly amongst all healthcare professionals.

Some scientific studies done so far have indicated that higher EI has a positive impact on job satisfaction and patient satisfaction. Although not enough research has been adequately concluded to measure EI’s total impact on healthcare, the research available implies that EI training for healthcare professionals may provide a positive effect in both a professional and personal setting.

We may need more research about that in the future, but right now, we do know that EI continues to grow throughout the business world and is in high demand for careers in the future for jobs in marketing, teaching, communications and so much more.

Scientifically, emotions precede thought when it comes to making decisions or reacting under pressure. Thus, having a high level of emotional intelligence on a personal level allows us to have uncomfortable conversations about our feelings, manage our own emotions and improve relationships with others.

In a professional standing, a high level of emotional intelligence helps us resolve conflicts, motivate others, create a professional culture and build safer environments, more efficiently and effectively.

Self-care should not just be limited to mental health. COVID-19 has shown everyone that we can all be vulnerable and that our healthcare system has been strained to the max. A lot of us have been damaged and have only relied on screens to heal while keeping our problems to ourselves.

Self-care shouldn’t also just be limited to patients. We’ve seen the flaws in our healthcare system and how inequitable and unprepared it is for the future workforce. Keep in mind, we also tend to take our healthcare and medical privilege for granted, not realizing that there are millions of healthcare professionals who are risking their lives every day to protect us.

It is important that we not only thank them and show our gratitude, but also raise awareness for them, similarly to how they protect and provide for us.