The State of a Medical Worker’s Mental Wellbeing
By Justine Ngo
Edited by Coleen Danielle Natividad
Frontliner sourcing by Jell Reyes
Since the start of August, the Philippines has had over 100,000 COVID-19 cases. We could say that the situation hasn’t been getting any better. Large hospitals, such as St. Luke’s Medical Center and Makati Medical Center, have announced that they have reached full capacity in their COVID-19 wards. Not only that, there have also been reports of inadequate medical facilities and equipment.
It is safe to say that the medical workers have been struggling to keep up with the influx of patients and decreasing amount of available medical supplies. Because of this, medical practitioners have appealed to the government for a 2-week enhanced community quarantine to “refine our pandemic control strategies, addressing the following urgent conditions: hospital workforce efficiency, failure of case finding and isolation, failure of contact tracing and quarantine, transportation safety, workplace safety, public compliance with self-protection, social amelioration”, as stated in the letter addressed to several government officials. This distress call has pushed the placement of Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) in some COVID-19 hotspots, such as Manila and Cavite from August 4 to August 18, 2020.
Interestingly, stories of medical workers’ experiences regarding their burnout and anxiety due to their work have surfaced on social media. Moreover, Philippine College of Physicians Vice President Encarnita Limpin said in an article, “Pagod na pagod na po kami. Hindi lang physically but mentally as well.” (“We are already tired, not only physically but mentally as well.”) These have brought to light another spectrum of the challenges that our medical frontliners are facing.
33-year-old Ma. Theresa M. Nantes works as a nurse and rehab worker at DOH Malinao Treatment and Rehabilitation Center. Here, she has been assisting drug and alcoholic dependents in their journeys towards becoming clean and sober for over 4 years. Everyday, she helps outpatient clients by acquiring any necessary medical assistance they need, such as referring them to doctors and providing them with medicine.
Since the start of the quarantine season, Theresa’s work life has significantly changed. Not only has she needed to apply the new work protocols given by the Inter-Agency Task Force, but she also needed to follow the new instructions from her central office. She was told to halt in having face-to-face interventions with her clients, which has been difficult for her. “We needed to adjust and think of other alternatives for us to help them”, she shared as she talked about her work amidst the quarantine.
Naturally, she has been more stressed both professionally and personally. The adjustments she needed to make, given the new circumstances, have made her more cautious about her own health and safety. Theresa has a family of 12, and circumstances such as this can also affect the well-being of her family. Her mental well-being, along with the way she has been working, have definitely been compromised due to this unfavorable situation.
Despite all these, she recognizes the need to have a good work-life balance in order to maintain a healthy mental well-being. She stays motivated because of her undying passion to help others. She stays focused on her task and goals, while staying safe and healthy. Apart from that, she has also been doing some stress debriefing techniques, together with her co-workers.
Moreover, she mentioned that her family serves as her support system when it comes to maintaining her strong mental wellbeing. “My family is very supportive in everything that I do. [They are] always there to help me when I need them.”, she added. She ended with a message for her fellow frontliners: “Keep going and always love what you do. Stay safe and healthy for your loved ones, and for the people who need us. God bless us all.”
If anything, this scenario has revealed how the current work situation of medical practitioners has taken a toll on their health, physically and mentally. More importantly, this pandemic has shed light on the importance of a healthy mental well-being in the success of performing tasks. This does not only apply to the medical field, but to workers from all sectors.
With the request of having a stricter community quarantine arrangement approved, medical practitioners will now be able to come up with a better game plan on how to attack this virus head on. Hopefully, medical practitioners can regain their strength and improve their mental well-being, as a stricter quarantine is imposed in the country.