OTTAWA, ON, July 7, 2020 /CNW/ - How can I deal with witnessing the suffering of patients due to delays in care? Is going to work putting my family at risk? How can I cope with discharging someone early to avoid the risk of them becoming infected? What will happen to my patients with mental health conditions when I have to postpone appointments? These are the types of agonizing challenges frontline health care workers are asking every day as Canada responds to the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe.
The balancing act that health care workers must confront each day is behind a rise in what is called moral injury. To provide support and guidance — and help prepare health care workplaces, employers, and leaders for the next wave — the Canadian Centre of Excellence on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Related Mental Health Conditions, based at The Royal in Ottawa, has teamed up with the Phoenix Australia Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health to co-develop a resource guide on moral injury.
The result of this trans-global partnership is a groundbreaking guide that addresses the challenges of moral injury: Moral Stress Amongst Healthcare Workers During COVID-19: A Guide to Moral Injury. Launching with an easily accessible platform of helpful resources, the guide is a "clarion call to action to support our frontline health care workers who are facing an extreme and unprecedented work and life experience," says Dr. Patrick Smith, CEO of the Canadian Centre.
"The COVID-19 pandemic is causing intense physical and mental stress for today's health care workers. They are dealing with feelings of guilt and shame: guilt when they triage which patients receive treatment; shame because they think they're not providing optimum care for all their patients when, in fact, they are giving the best care possible under the circumstances. On top of this, they're worried they too will become infected and in turn infect loved ones," explains Dr. Smith.
An added wrinkle is that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is new, and there are no clear answers yet on how to treat it.
The current pandemic is a high-stakes situation that is compromising the well-being of health care workers. As Dr. Smith points out: "Along with working long hours with few breaks, health care workers are also confronted with the racial disparities of the pandemic, as the coronavirus is disproportionately affecting racialized communities. All these factors and experiences can lead to moral injury, which can cause individuals to question their actions and the actions of others."
The breach of a person's personal and ethical code is at the heart of a moral injury and can result in long-lasting emotional and psychological damage, and can even lead to suicide. More than advice for frontline health care workers, the Guide to Moral Injury is a framework for health care organizations. It offers a 'map' for how to implement preventative and early intervention structures to support health care workers before they are morally injured — how to identify risk factors; how to prepare, manage exposure, and design jobs using a whole-of-organization approach; why peer support is so important as a protective factor.
"Health care organizations must consider the role of managers and leaders, well-being support services, and individual coping resources, in how an individual will be supported before, during, and after an event like the COVID-19 pandemic," says Dr. Smith. "We need to have supports developed and ready at the organizational, team, and individual levels before our health care workers need them — not after the fact."
The type of responses required at each of these three levels is mapped out in the guide. In addition, the Canadian Centre is working with partner organizations across the country to develop tangible toolkits to help prepare leaders, frontline workers, and peer support organizations.
The mission of the Centre of Excellence on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Related Mental Health Conditions is to increase Canadian expertise related to military and veteran mental health, suicide prevention, and substance use disorders, ultimately making this knowledge available to any first responders, family members, service providers, and researchers across Canada. The Phoenix Australia Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health engages in cutting-edge research and treatment approaches that has led to improved workplace management of traumatic stress, as well as greater support for trauma-affected individuals, families, and communities. Psychological trauma comes in many forms and impacts people from all walks of life. When it comes to moral injury as a result of a global pandemic, both leading-edge institutions are bringing their collective muscle to bear on an issue that is affecting millions of health care workers around the world.
MEDIA BACKGROUNDER DOCUMENT HERE: https://www.moralinjuryguide.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/media-backgrounder-en.doc
SOURCE Centre of Excellence on PTSD
For further information: For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Gloria Galloway 613-447-6648, [email protected]