Division of Infectious Diseases

Fighting Fear in COVID-19

“Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision”
Sir Winston Churchill

COVID-19 has delivered profound impact on each of us, the healthcare system and world. Events like this carry the impact of an earthquake – the life-altering natural disaster from which we simply cannot be the same thereafter. Yet, for COVID-19, the tremors have not yet stopped.

As we have lived through this pandemic as Infectious Diseases physicians and leaders in Infection Control and Employee Health, we also have encountered nearly unprecedented fear within our workplace.

Fear about how many will become ill, and die of COVID-19.

Fear about inadequate testing.

Fear about not having enough PPE or that it will fail.

Fear that frontline healthcare workers will bring COVID-19 home to families.

Fear has overcome us like a tsunami after the earthquake.

Unfortunately, fear itself has a secondary impact in healthcare. It can influence our actions, including maladaptive behaviors such as hoarding PPE, overuse and misuse of PPE or other scarce resources and avoidance of appropriate cares for our patients.

The potential influence of fear in this pandemic has to be discussed. Here are a few of our thoughts:

“Unfortunately, fear and misinformation has spread as fast as the virus.  Ambiguity breeds anxiety and, as this is a novel infection, there are plenty of unknowns and ambiguities.  We’ve tried to be as transparent and honest as possible, shared information as it became available, and admitted when something was unknown.  We’ve really stressed PPE availability and appropriate use as well as administrative and engineering infection prevention interventions. Hopefully, to some degree, this has lessened anxiety and fear for our healthcare providers.”    – Dr. Mark Rupp

“Fear is a normal human reaction. Fear about COVID-19 can take a significant emotional and physical toll. Fear can be exacerbated by misleading or false information. Recognizing and accepting that fear of this virus is widespread is an important step in process. Providing consistent information and education of the facts on COVID-19 is vital to controlling fear. Hopefully these efforts will prove valuable and protect our most valuable resource- our healthcare workers” – Dr. Rick Starlin

“The impact of fear has been significant in our day-to-day lives. Fear introduces bias to our beliefs that may be unfounded, creates a significant burden to carry, and if not understood and addressed, can inadvertently cause further harm. Creating a safe place to ask questions, provide education and training, and to simply process through these emotions is critical during this pandemic. We cannot afford to underestimate the power of fear.” – Dr. Kelly Cawcutt

Please read our full perspective linked below.

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/infection-control-and-hospital-epidemiology/article/fighting-fear-in-healthcare-workers-during-the-covid19-pandemic/B98F7E283611FCF4F2E3CF5B7BCD192E

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