In January 2020, the CDC launched an agency-wide response to the COVID-19 virus. Since that time, over 32 million cases in the U.S. alone have resulted in well over half a million deaths to date. This has put tremendous strain on healthcare workers throughout the country.
Through it all, heroic physicians have battled the pandemic while treating patients who are suffering from other illnesses. Long, grueling hours, historic mortality rates, and the fear of contracting the virus or bringing it home to family members have left clinicians fatigued and facing burnout.
Fortunately, there are ways to overcome COVID fatigue.
What is COVID fatigue?
Fatigue is defined as exhaustion from labor, exertion, or stress. COVID fatigue combines the physical aspects physicians are experiencing with a complex of emotions such as frustration, sadness, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and fear. The effects include slowed-down reaction times, inability to concentrate, reduced attention, and impaired judgment. This puts clinicians and their patients at risk.
High cases of burnout have led many to leave the medical field altogether.
Ways physicians can overcome COVID fatigue
Despite seeming to be never-ending, the COVID-19 pandemic is finally showing signs of slowing down. Many have been vaccinated, and new cases and instances of deaths are down.
In the meantime, there are steps clinicians can take to help overcome COVID fatigue.
When spending one's life caring for others, it can be difficult to remember caring for oneself. Self-care should always be a vital part of every physician's mental health, not just during a pandemic. Discussing the situation with a trained professional is one of the best ways to make sense of things and keep going. Some facilities have specialized programs to help physicians and other personnel deal with the stress of COVID. If your place of employment is one of them, use it.
Working in daily exercise is one of the best ways to deal with stress. Going for a run or hitting the gym first thing in the morning can help with getting in the right frame of mind to handle the trials of the day. A yoga or tai chi session after work can help you leave it all behind so that you can be present at home and get a good night's sleep.
Prayer, Meditation, Mindfulness
You don't have to be religious to pray. Zen practices like prayer and meditation can help you stop the noise in your head and center yourself. Practicing mindfulness at home and work can keep you in the right frame of mind for dealing with patients. All you have to do is focus on the present moment without worrying about the future or fretting about the past. Even if you only practice for 10 minutes a day, it will be beneficial.
An excellent way to deal with everything that is going on is to write it all down. Get all your frustrations down on paper without worrying about what someone will think of you should they happen to come across what you have written. You can burn it when you are done if need be. Journaling helps you clarify your thoughts and feelings so that you can get beyond roadblocks in your mental health. It is also a tremendous problem-solving tool.
Activities such as practicing a musical instrument, painting, or indulging in some craft are an excellent way to unwind. Leave the hospital’s troubles behind for a few hours while you build the perfect birdhouse or attend a little league game. Visiting a museum or art gallery on your day off can help you with mental focus when you are back on the job.
Limiting exposure to information
Television news and social media are filled with information that makes us fearful and depressed. Leave it alone for the time being. Instead, read a novel or see a comedic movie. A few hours spent in a faraway land or laughing at nonsense can help ease the tensions of reality and put you in a better mood.
It is understandable that when you are away from patients, you might want to be alone. Some time to yourself is fine, but don't isolate yourself. If you live alone or away from friends and family, be present virtually. It will do them a world of good to see your face, and it will help you feel connected. Form a bubble with close ones so that the resentment and frustration that comes from taking part in as many social activities can be lessened.
Work locum tenens
A good way to overcome COVID fatigue is through variety. As a locum tenens physician, you get to work in interesting places and provide care in various, short durations. VISTA has over 30 years of experience and services over 60 specialties and subspecialties, helping healthcare professionals make rewarding transitions. A locum tenens position may be just what you need to help with fatigue and keep from experiencing burnout.
For locum tenens positioning in the U.S., VISTA provides:
Excellent compensation and no placement fees
Paid travel, housing, and local transportation
Carefully screened work sites that match your interests, skills, and experience
Professional liability insurance
Assistance with credentialing, licensure, and securing privileges
As a clinician, you get to enjoy a flexible schedule, decreased administrative responsibilities, and working in places you have always wanted to travel. Most of all, you get to bring your services where they are desperately needed. Rural areas and underserved urban regions need experts like you, and you can provide healthcare to those who will appreciate it the most.
Visit the VISTA job board today to find your next assignment. It's the best solution to fatigue and burnout.