There is never a good time for a pandemic, but Covid 19 has kicked doctors while we were down. Between 50% 1 and 80% 2 of us were already burnt out. We went on strike, we left traditional training routes, we retired early and now we are asked and volunteering to “doctor on”. In the year before Covid 19, policy documents from the Society of Occupational Medicine,3 the British Medical Association,4 Health Education England 5 and the General Medical Council 6 recommended vital changes for our wellbeing. These are in danger of being even further from implementation.
There is currently enormous goodwill towards the health professions: our health and safety, and of those we love, is a daily concern around the world. But the lack of adequate provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has made many doctors and nurses feel that they and their families are considered ‘expendable’.7 We feel shame for thinking of ourselves rather than our patients, guilt for leaving our families and putting them at risk, and worry that people will say we are not doing enough. Many fear we do not have the clinical competence or skill to manage teams in this situation and dread a mistake under the pressure of the volume of work. Not only this, but we risk moral injury through being asked to choose to whom we should devote our limited resources. 8
Covid 19 is not going to be weathered by a heroic sprint; it is an arduous marathon, which will continue to run long after Covid 19 is no longer of the prime concern. If we are to continue to work when the peaks are over, we must take control of our wellbeing and help colleagues to do the same. 9 Capturing data repeatedly on how burnt out, anxious, depressed, or morally injured we are as a profession does not assist us in moving forward. We need an operational definition of what wellbeing is, and a core outcome set of measures of wellbeing so we know when we have the optimum conditions to survive and thrive and can share how we achieve it.
Read about the research studies being undertaken to achieve this at the Centre for Workforce Wellbeing on our Research Page.
- Matthew-King A. Revealed: the rising tide of GP burnout as NHS cuts support. Pulse. http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/ your-practice/battling-burnout/revealed-the-rising-tideof-gp-burnout-as-nhs-cuts-support/20010133.fullarticle. Published 2015. Accessed June 14, 2018.
- British Medical Association. Caring for the mental health of the medical workforce. Available at: https://archive.bma.org.uk/collective-voice/policy-and-research/education-training-and-workforce/supporting-the-mental-health-of-doctors-in-the-workforce/collective%20voice/policy%20research/education%20and%20training/20190196%20bma%20mental%20health%20survey%20report.pdf?la=en [Accessed 27/01/2020].
- Society of Occupational Medicine. What could make a difference to the mental health of UK doctors? Available at: https://www.som.org.uk/sites/som.org.uk/files/What_could_make_a_difference_to_the_mental_health_of_UK_doctors_LTF_SOM.pdf [Accessed 27/01/2020].
- British Medical Association. Supporting health and wellbeing at work. Available at: https://www.bma.org.uk/collective-voice/policy-and-research/education-training-and-workforce/supporting-health-and-wellbeing-at-work [Accessed 27/01/2020].
- Health Education England. NHS Staff and Learners’ Wellbeing Commission. NHS Staff and Learners Wellbeing Review. Available at: https://www.hee.nhs.uk/sites/default/files/documents/NHS%20(HEE)%20-%20Mental%20Wellbeing%20Commission%20Report.pdf [Accessed: 27/01/2020].
- General Medical Council. Caring for doctors, Caring for patients. Available at: https://www.gmc-uk.org/-/media/documents/caring-for-doctors-caring-for-patients_pdf-80706341.pdf [Accessed 27/01/2020].
- Locke T. COVID-19 Medscape UK PPE Poll: 7 in 10 Lack Supplies. Medscape News UK. Available at: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/927344?nlid=134642_5223&src=wnl_newsalrt_uk_200323_MSCPEDIT&uac=100345AJ&impID=2321565&faf=1 [Accessed: 23/03/2020]
- Greenberg N et al. Managing mental health challenges faced by healthcare workers during covid-19 pandemic. BMJ 2020;368:m1211. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1211 [Accessed 26/02/2020]
- Unadkat S, Farquhar M. Self-care for doctors during the covid-19 crisis. BMJ 2020;368:m1150 [Accessed 29/03/2020]