Living through a pandemic is not going to be easy for anyone, let alone health care professionals.
Every day, we deal with sickness, trauma, death and dying. We have this in our awareness more so than the general population and may have even gained skills to deal with the effect that has on ourselves. Yet this doesn’t make us any more prepared for the sheer scale and enormity of what is happening around the world and what could be to come for us here in Australia.
Some of you may feel prepared. Some of you may not.
Personally, I feel a large sense of responsibility. Training as a doctor I knew one day I could be called upon. A war, severe environmental impacts of climate change or a pandemic. I’ve learnt about health system responsiveness and watched my fair share of pandemic movie dramatisations. Apart from a zombie apocalypse, (for which I feel entirely unprepared) I knew there could be a time where my skills are called upon for the greater good. That I could be asked to ‘give back’ to my community and healthcare at large, potentially risking my own health. This I am willing to do. Perhaps having the agency to be able to ‘do something’ helps. But that does not necessarily make it easy.
We all have people we care about. Whether here or overseas. Many of these people regardless of their location we won’t be able to see, let alone touch, for an unknown length of time. Some of these people may become unwell, some may even die. Many of us are vulnerable to COVID-19 itself and may be faced with our own morbidity and mortality. Many of us may now feel unsafe in our workplace, when before it perhaps was a place of healing.
We have jobs that are ‘essential services’. However, many of our jobs have changed. Many of us have limited or no access to sick leave, annual leave or long service leave. Many of us have had a reduction in our income. For GPs in Training there are risks to job security and without an established patient base, an even greater impact on finances. Some of us may have partners whose jobs are at risk and may become the sole income earner.
We all have ongoing requirements for education and commitment to our careers. For GPs in Training these changes are even greater. For those of you who have children, juggling home-schooling with working and studying will be an extremely tough challenge.
As GPs, we know how illness and death affects humanity, as we care for people at every stage of their life. We have the privilege of being able to care for people at their most vulnerable and learn from them as well as support them. As GPs during a pandemic, we are playing a key role in the coordination of the community response, caring for COVID-19 patients and educating our patients, wider community and our even our family and friends! We also have the role of ensuring the rest of the population has ongoing, continuity of care for their chronic conditions and especially their mental health.
Doctors are already at high risk of burnout with an increased rate of suicidal thoughts and psychological distress as well as substance abuse. Burnout is also associated with poorer quality care and therefore is not only a problem for doctors but also patient safety. Throw into the mix a pandemic, widespread upskilling of technology and broad system based changes and there is a real risk of burnout for everybody.
Additionally, the previous habits you may have formed to prevent burnout may have to change. Strategies you have set up to ‘Eat well, exercise, get restorative sleep, obtain work/life balance & have social connection’ may well have to be adjusted to align with the changes required by the pandemic.
This is a time of uncertainty, rapid change and extreme difficulty. The RACGP has recognised this affects our GPs in Training significantly and has put together a GP in Training Support during COVID Response Group (GPiTS CRG) to ensure the wellbeing of our trainees is at the forefront of our activities in this time.
We have staff working tirelessly to minimise the impact of education, training and exam deferral and are updating the GPiT Covid page regularly with FAQs. Any employment or PPE safety issues should be directed to your RTO, GPRA or AMA. We also welcome any feedback, questions or concerns, please use the form (insert location here).
On this particular page, you will find helpful resources that will be updated regularly as well as wellness tips/tricks and events where we can connect in ‘virtual community’. We encourage you to join the Facebook group to keep in contact with each other as well as be aware of any upcoming events. Alternatively, you can check in with this platform regularly as it will change regularly as we find new content.
This suite of resources is not meant to be another thing you have ‘to do.’ Please do not feel you have to try everything. We encourage you to find something that sparks interest and explore that. You may pick one thing, one resource or one activity to try and do that for a whole week, a whole month or even the whole pandemic!
What I do encourage you to do, is check in regularly. With each other, with yourself, your loved ones and this platform as you need.
Stay safe & wash your hands,
Dr Ashlea Broomfield
Chair – GPiTS CRG
Supporting your wellbeing
- Just a GP (A Multilayered Podcast for a Multilayered Profession)
- Description: Run by NSW/ACT Faculty Dr Charlotte Hespe, Dr. Rebekah Hoffman and Dr. Ashlea Broomfield discuss all things ‘non clinical’ related to GP. As part of a regular series on wellbeing, there are some specific episodes related to self care and wellness during COVID
- The Good GP
- Description: An education podcast for busy GPs; brought to you by Dr Tim Koh, Dr Krystyna DeLange and Dr Sean Stevens, in collaboration with RACGP WA. Wellbeing & GPiT episodes:
- You are Not a Frog
- Description: A podcast for health professionals (aimed mostly at doctors) describing how to stay in a high stakes job and still stay well. The host is Dr Rachel Morris, GP turned Executive Coach and Specialist in Resilience at Work.
- CODA CHANGE
- Description: An offshoot from SMACC (Social Media and Critical Care) Coda Change has a podcast and most recent episodes focus on dealing with COVID-19 related wellbeing for doctors
Useful Websites & Resources