9 Ways Healthcare Workers Can Support Each Other During a Crisis

As healthcare workers rush to save the nation from COVID-19, millions of citizens around the world are showing their gratitude and support. In France, quarantined residents cheered and clapped from their balcony windows. In Canada, police, fire and emergency services turned on their sirens in a salute to their healthcare workers and in the U.S., citizens are following suit, with cheering campaigns, prayer vigils and siren salutes.

Putting your life at risk on a daily basis can cause an enormous amount of stress and anxiety. A recent survey of more than 1,200 healthcare workers in China found that 72% of nurses and physicians treating patients for COVID-19 reported psychological distress. Of the respondents, 34% reported symptoms of insomnia, 45% reported symptoms of anxiety and half of those surveyed reported symptoms of depression.

These healthcare workers are risking their own lives daily for the sake of strangers and the citizens of every nation around the world want to show their gratitude and support. During a crisis, however, it is the support from colleagues that can really make a difference in the day-to-day fight for survival.

  1. Check-in on each other:

    Simply asking someone how their day is going can go a long way in alleviating stress and in building a connection during a trying time.

  2. Distract each other: 

    Sometimes all it takes is a quick joke, a thoughtful text or a funny story to lighten the mood.

  3. Express gratitude  

    When your coworkers do something that makes your life or job a little bit easier, be sure to thank them. Let them know you noticed.

  4. Treat your colleagues to lunch

    If you manage to squeeze in a lunch break, when you run for your own meal, grab extras for those who didn’t get a break.

  5. Encourage teamwork or partnerships

    Splitting responsibilities might get the job done in half the time and working together can build connections and ease isolation.

  6. Pay attention to verbal and nonverbal communication from your coworkers 

    Colleagues who exhibit self-sacrificing behaviors are at a higher risk for depression and anxiety. Look for signs of prolonged isolation and verbiage like “Only I can do this…” or “Everyone else is working around the clock, I need to as well.” Encourage coworkers who display these behaviors to take a break.

  7. Lead by example 

    Maintain positive verbal self-talk and communication, avoid overgeneralizing fears and focus on what is within your power. Foster a spirit of patience, tolerance and hope.

  8. Encourage a shift of older workers to virtual care 

    Older adults, particularly those with underlying health concerns, are at risk of serious illness from COVID-19. In the U.S., 29% of physicians and nurses are between 55 and 65 years old. Shifting workers who are over 50, who have underlying health issues or who are already in quarantine to virtual care or other duties can lower their risk, while allowing for the younger providers, with more robust immune systems, to provide direct care.

  9. Create a virtual support group 

    Access video conferencing tools to set up a virtual peer ‘connection’ group. Use these groups to support each other, discuss challenges and to provide the latest helpful information.

While the nation cheers on its healthcare workers from afar, it is up to those on the frontlines to carry each other through. The mental effects of a crisis can be devastating. You can ease this trauma by taking a moment to connect with your colleagues.