As the public braces itself to battle the coronavirus (COVID-19), most understand that hospital, nursing home and home care/nursing personnel face an increased chance of contracting the feared pandemic due to the high potential of personal exposure to patients carrying disease.

According to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), “an estimated 3000 health care workers have been infected and at least 22 have died” in China, since the onset of the pandemic.

But as daunting as contracting the disease is, there is another harmful determinant experienced every day in the lives of healthcare workers – stress – a combination of worrying about potentially impacting their loved ones, while becoming increasingly fatigued from the trauma that surrounds them daily at their workplace.

The stress of potentially contracting the disease themselves is somewhat mitigated by the knowledge and experience that these health providers possess. They know the safety protocols better than the average person.

But there is also the worry that their work increases the odds of a their child or spouse being exposed to the disease due to the high concentration of contact the health care worker has with patients.

Just a few days ago, doctors James G. Adams and Ron M. Walls, published a paper in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, emphasizing the importance of backing health care workers during these difficult times.

It is entitled, Supporting the Health Care Workforce During the COVID-19 Global Epidemic.” (You can link to this paper by clicking here.)

While acknowledging the efforts in the race for vaccine development and medical treatment efforts, the two doctors also warned that the “pressure on the global health care workforce continues to intensify.”

Adams and Walls are serious but measured in their report – and while more and more people are understandably distracted as their daily routines – including work – are disrupted, it makes sense for the public to take heed of the doctors’ warning.

It will take less than fifteen minutes to carefully read this digest.

Doing so will remind one of the sacrifices that these health care workers are making for the rest of us.

As Adams and Walls write, “Meanwhile, the pressure on the global health care workforce continues to intensify. This pressure takes 2 forms. The first is the potentially overwhelming burden of illnesses that stresses health system capacity and the second is the adverse effects on health care workers, including the risk of infection.”

We need to remember the full complement of workers impacted here.

While many of those on the front lines are nurses and doctors, there are thousands of others – respiratory therapists, phlebotomists, housekeepers, food workers, maintenance staff, transporters … and the list goes on.

All of these folks are the main line of defense protecting the rest of the population.

These doctors know because they have worked on that line.

Adams is a specialist in emergency medicine, and a doctor with Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Health Care, and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. 

Walls is a doctor with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, has published about 125 medical research works related to emergency room procedures, and is also affiliated with Harvard Medical School.

They have experience working with the full spectrum of care providers. And they want to remind us not to forget the full court press that will be needed to fight this pandemic, and the stress it creates.

Here is a short excerpt from the paper to help us remember our friends and neighbors soldiering for the rest of the country:

“Hospital personnel, including caregivers, support staff, administration, and preparedness teams, all will be stressed by the challenges of a prolonged response to COVID-19 … Ensuring that workers feel they get adequate rest, are able to tend to critical personal needs (such as care of an older family member), and are supported both as health care professionals and as individuals will help maintain individual and team performance over the long run.”

Please take the time to read the full paper. It won’t take very long – promise.

Here’s the link again (just click on the headline:

“Supporting the Health Care Workforce During the COVID-19 Global Epidemic.”