How to offer emotional support to health care workers and recovering COVID-19 patients

How to offer emotional support to health care workers and recovering COVID-19 patients

During these unprecedented times, it is crucial that we provide emotional support for one another, especially healthcare workers and COVID-19 patients who have been directly affected by the virus. 

Along with the physical toll of recovering from COVID-19, patients who have experienced severe physical symptoms along with the strain of intensive care can also suffer emotionally and mentally. Physically, they may experience weakness, fatigue, and loss of muscle mass from intensive care confinement. The risk of emotional distress is also high. 

Ron Riner, M.D., CMO of the Ardent Health Services Americas Division, explains that people who have recovered from a critical illness are at significant risk for emotional issues. “This is a traumatic event in their lives and can lead to a rollercoaster of emotions during and after recovery,” he says.  

Caregivers for these patients may also experience extraordinary challenges. In addition to the stress of treating critically ill patients during the workday, some are unable to return home to family in fear of passing the virus to their loved ones. 

To support one another during this time, Dr. Riner emphasizes the importance of good communication with coworkers, family and friends. “It is important to reach out and support one another, as many people have never gone through something of this magnitude. Create a comfortable and safe environment and encourage them to talk about what they have been feeling and experiencing,” explains Riner. If you are limited in face-to-face communication, you can still connect virtually. 

Being there for your loved ones, coworkers, healthcare workers or even a stranger can have a very positive impact on mental health. Dr. Riner adds, “Little things make a big difference in times of crisis. Don’t discount the slightest thing you can do – even a kind word.”  

If you cannot make a grand gesture, you can still make a difference. Send a note of encouragement, empathize with their challenges and burdens, or simply ask how they are doing. 

Support one another in ways that are comfortable to you, knowing that it will take time for emotional healing even after the pandemic ends.