Calls for mental health support for nurses

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By Latrishka Thomas

“You can’t give what you don’t have.” Those were the words from one mental health professional who is calling for greater emotional support to be given to frontline Covid-19 healthcare workers dealing with unprecedented stress.

Experts speaking on Observer’s Big Issues programme on Sunday said it was vital to consider the mental impact on doctors and nurses who come face to face with the coronavirus pandemic daily.

Former superintendent of public health nursing, Coralita Joseph, recommended mental health officers be enlisted to “talk to them constantly, put them in some kind of a time-off and give them that mental support that is necessary.”

She added that “just as patients are fearful, so the nurses are [because] they’re not angels. They are not Superman. They are human beings trying to make sure that they give the right service to those patients who are affected with the pandemic.”

Counsellor Renée Smith also stressed the importance of these workers taking time out to rejuvenate.

“Take some time alone, get yourself centred,” she advised them. “If you’re a Christian-minded person, talk to God, do whatever it is that you need to do to replenish your cup,” suggested Smith.

She also recommended that supervisors intervene by talking with staff before they go out into the field.

Smith explained that “we would do more of a disservice to not just healthcare professionals, but for the general public, if we have burned-out nurses and doctors, and we expecting them to perform miracles.”

She added, “I think we really need to handle them with a lot of care and love and support if we expect them to get us through this crisis. So that … we’re in the best possible place, not only physically but mentally and emotionally,” she stated.

Meanwhile, public health expert Eleanor Frederick lobbied for attention to be given to other issues that may arise during this crisis.

“We’re going to be seeing increasing gender-based violence and so we must look to help individuals in those situations, put in safe clinical, mental health solutions. We must try to do some more video conferences, teleconference, whatever it takes to reach the population. And of course, look out for the elderly and those who are alone and isolated,” Frederick concluded.

Last week, the Cabinet agreed to honour “those health-workers who are placed on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus, including nurses and orderlies.”

Cabinet pledged “they will be applauded in several ways when this crisis is at an end.”

On Sunday evening, residents showed their appreciation for local medics by tooting car horns, blowing conch shells, beating drums and flashing lights for one minute at 6pm.

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