University HealthCare Alliance

April 22, 2020

Scope | The Mental Health of Health Care Workers during COVID-19

“I don’t want to get this virus. I’m young, but young people still get the virus,” began the first call-in comment from a health care worker participating in a Stanford Medicine webinar on anxiety and caring for COVID-19 patients.

The comment was one of many from approximately 600 participants in a recent video conference moderated by Tait Shanafelt, MD, Stanford Medicine’s chief wellness officer. Shanafelt, along with three mental health specialists from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, offered tips and advice for health care workers providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This reaction is normal,” Shanafelt said, in response to the participant’s comment. “If there is one take-home from this webinar, it is that you can let go of anxiety about anxiety. It’s a common response, and there isn’t something that is wrong with you.”

Health care workers, often independent to a fault, can find it extremely difficult to ask for help, said psychiatrist Mickey Trockel, MD, PhD.

Despite this independence, though, they’re not immune to added pressures of the pandemic — both on a personal and professional level, the experts told their audience. Health care workers, too, worry about their families, about getting sick and being quarantined. They, too, face social isolation and fears about the future. 

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