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Has It Really Been Four Years Since The Pandemic? Healthcare Professionals Still Struggle With Trauma

Has It Really Been Four Years Since The Pandemic? Healthcare Professionals Still Struggle With Trauma

And just like that, we are approaching four years since the world stood still and we faced the defining moment for public health in our lifetime. We all committed to staying still while doctors and nurses worked the front lines. We enjoyed our whipped coffee, Tiger King, and Tiktok dances as a distraction from the scary unknown that was happening outside. Then suddenly restaurants and gyms were opening back up, followed by schools, and now we are flying on airplanes and attending sporting events unmasked.

But does it really feel like 4 years? A pre-pandemic study already concluded that trauma affected our temporal lobes and subsequently our perception of the passing of time. But what if humanity as a collective went through a prolonged traumatic event, and what if we are still facing its aftermath?

Even though we’re past the pandemic, there can still be behaviors, thoughts or feelings that are still impacting people’s psyche today nearly 4 years later. Hospitals in the United States are still facing about 20,000 COVID-19 per week, and we still grieve for the 1.18 million people we lost in the United States alone. Despite the world seemingly moving on, our healthcare providers remain in the trenches. While doctors and nurses were once given standing ovations and crowned our healthcare heroes, they carried the burden of our collective trauma and were never given the space to grieve.

“Although the worst of the Covid pandemic is behind us, the impact still lingers. For many healthcare providers, there is PTSD around all the severe Covid cases they witnessed and the lives they could not save,” says Dr. Gail Gazelle MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Gail Gazelle is an esteemed physician coach specializing in healthcare burnout and has been seeing first-hand the negative effects doctors are facing, and it is clear to her that doctors are feeling abandoned. It’s as if all of the “healthcare hero” celebrations were merely surface level, and physicians are left with little help, lingering PTSD, and a healthcare system that still doesn’t support mental wellbeing.

The abandonment that doctors have felt both during and after the pandemic has been detrimental to their mental health. They feel like the world has moved on… but did they? Although as a society we may be feeling “back to normal,” many people are developing trauma-like symptoms. This was and continues to be one of the unprecedented events to occur in our lifetime.

Just like doctors, we need the time and space to move on and heal. We cannot as a society go from thousands of deaths per day and unable to leave our homes to “everything is fine now” without expecting serious impacts on our mental state of mind.

Dr. Gazelle goes on to say, “After any major illness, there needs to be healing. The same is true for the American psyche post-pandemic. The healing in this case involves moving from a focus on ourselves and a shift to a focus on community; from ‘I’ to ‘we.’ This means each of us accepting that it’s ok for others to have differing views, supporting one another, and shifting our focus from what we need to what those around us need.

Although physicians have been on the front lines through the pandemic, everyone could benefit from resources to overcome burnout, trauma, and lingering mental strain. In her latest book, “Mindful MD: 6 Ways Mindfulness Restores Your Autonomy and Cures Healthcare Burnout,” Dr. Gazelle explores the topics of the roots and causes of burnout, reducing reactivity to outside stressors and how to cultivate upwards spirals in the lives of not only medical professionals, but everyone who finds themselves struggling with burnout and imposter syndrome.

If you still feel like you are stuck in the trauma of 2020, and you are looking for ways to cope and heal, her book serves as a great resource. But in the meantime, as we approach the anniversary of COVID-19, take a moment to discuss with a friend or loved one about how you felt back then, open up about your mental state and lean on each other. We’re not alone in this.

Published by: Nelly Chavez

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