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This content is taken from the The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust's online course, Grief, Loss, and Dying During COVID-19. Join the course to learn more.

Welcome to Week 2

During the pandemic, health workers and care staff in homes and the community across the globe have experienced unprecedented pressures, anxieties and challenges. During this week we will look at the nature and impact of these and try to get under the surface of some of the rhetoric that has surrounded their role in managing the worst effects of the epidemic.

Workers have been in close contact with dying people and their relatives, at a volume and intensity that they have never had to confront before. This has been made more painful by a whole series of complications and contextual factors: uncertainty about which patients were infected, not knowing whether they were carrying the virus themselves, wondering how to protect their own families and colleagues while continuing to work, a lack of adequate protective equipment, and more.

Across the world, some staff were feted as heroes, while others doing equally important and dangerous work seemed invisible much of the time. How does this come about? The fear of death which we touched on in Week 1 was everywhere, but the actual threat was often invisible. The conditions in which workers tried to save lives and protect people were often inadequately resourced and the lack of testing made good decisions impossible.

We found that many staff felt they were failing to do their jobs properly, or not working in a way they thought was ethical despite putting all they had into long exhausting days of work. This feeling seemed to strike at the root of their professional integrity, creating another anxiety to add to all the others. Later you will explore this experience under the heading moral injury.

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This article is from the free online course:

Grief, Loss, and Dying During COVID-19

The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust

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