Medical worker sitting

Every day in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, health care workers put their lives at risk by simply going to work. But the risk isn’t just physical; it’s also psychological.

If you’re a health care worker, working on the front lines where the coronavirus is being treated often takes its toll before you realize it. Early signs of depression or anxiety may go unnoticed as you are overwhelmed with the responsibilities of caring for patients. Online counseling can be your best option for ongoing support when you need it.

Here are some specific issues that health care workers may face during the time of COVID-19. Do any of these resonate with you? If so, call us at 949.528.6300 to be matched with a telehealth or online counseling provider.

Anxiety

Fear of contracting the virus weighs heavily on health care workers — not to mention witnessing the rise in COVID-19 cases, not getting enough protective gear, watching colleagues succumb to the virus, and making tough treatment decisions. Each of these concerns can significantly raise your anxiety level.

Even if you’re not aware of it, you may be experiencing more subtle anxiety symptoms such as inability to focus, muscle tension, or insomnia. Research shows that disclosing what you are going through to someone else can decrease the effect of the trauma you are experiencing. An online therapist can have that dialogue with you.

Burnout

Maintaining a rigorous work schedule while caring for sick patients and their families is a lot to bear, especially when you’re worried about your own health, too. According to one study, over half of physicians and over one-third of nurses experience symptoms of burnout.

Burnout can include feelings exhaustion, crying, being quick to anger, feelings of inefficacy and cynicism, as well as physical symptoms like frequent headaches or stomachaches. Talking about your feelings in online counseling can be a much-needed outlet and even help you identify any action steps you could take to improve the situation for yourself.

Feelings of helplessness

Along with burnout might come a feeling of helplessness. Nonmedical employees who don’t directly care for patients but who nevertheless work in the same environment are at the highest risk of feeling this way. This can stem from the fear of eventually contracting the virus and not having enough equipment to protect oneself and/or properly treat patients. Speaking to someone about it, if only to share the burden, may help relieve some pressure.

Increased loneliness and isolation

Because health care workers are potentially exposed to the virus more than the average person, they may self-isolate more aggressively due to their increased risk. For example, one emergency room physician quarantined herself from her husband within their own home because he is immunocompromised. In other cases, your family members may decide to keep their distance from you. Either way, this can lead to feelings of increased loneliness and isolation compared to others who are able to quarantine with a small inner circle of loved ones.

Anger

Not having enough medical equipment and confusion over protocols have left many health care workers feeling angry. Some have stated that they feel they’ve been put in harm’s way without proper preparedness measures. This has created a lack of trust in leadership when it comes to fighting COVID-19.

Trust in one’s own organizational leadership is a key factor in job satisfaction for health care workers, making this situation particularly difficult. Holding onto hidden anger or resentment could also affect your wellbeing, your closest relationships, and the quality of patient care. If you are struggling with unexpressed anger, consider working with a therapist.

With no clear end in sight for the COVID-19 crisis, as a health care worker, you’re in an extremely tough position. Just like anyone else, you are likely worried about putting yourself at risk of contracting the virus. Perhaps even more so than the general population, you need support as you continue to witness first-hand the toll that COVID-19 is taking on our communities.

At Orange County Health Psychologists, we’re ready to take your call. Telehealth, also known as online counseling, is flexible enough to fit into your schedule and can make a significant difference in how you face each day. Call us at 949.528.6300 or send us an email to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We will pair you up with the right provider to address your unique needs.

—Written by Ekua Hagan for Orange County Health Psychologists