The front lines of this pandemic are called that because they are closest to the danger. Find out how healthcare workers are doing amid the devastation.
Healthcare is inarguably the most affected industry in this outbreak. Since it started, hospital beds, equipment, and workers have all been stretched too thin. According to this pre-lockdown article by Business Insider, 3,400 workers have been infected in China when their country was at the eye of the storm.
Today, the US has the greatest number of infected by a huge margin. The country has its share of sick healthcare workers, particularly in the harder-hit states.
Here is a closer look at the vanguard of the front-liners battling this terrible disease.
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Before the Pandemic
Even before the outbreak of Covid-19, the nature of the work of healthcare workers has always exposed them to risks and dangers to their health and well being. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, the 59 million health workers around the world have been exposed to the following:
- Biological hazards like TB, HIV/AIDS, SARS, and Hepatitis.
- Physical hazards like radiation, heavy lifting, noise, slips, and falls.
- Chemical hazards like ethylene oxide and glutaraldehyde.
- Psychological hazards like shifting schedules, violence, and stress.
- Fire and explosion hazards.
- Electrical hazards.
It may not be on the list of the most dangerous jobs in the US, but the exposure to risks is undeniable, even before the outbreak.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, healthcare is the fastest-growing sector in the US economy. It currently has 18 million workers.
The Covid-19 Outbreak
When the pandemic hit the US, many states immediately felt its devastation. The need for hospital beds, ventilators, and of course, health workers rose significantly.
The risk that these jobs include also increased dramatically. The world calls them front-liners for a reason. In war, this means they are in the most dangerous position because they are closest to the conflict.
According to the Harvard Medical School, here are the risks healthcare workers encounter during this outbreak:
- The uncertainty and fear of getting infected with the disease.
- The added risk of infecting people in their homes.
- The insufficient supplies of personal protective equipment or PPEs like N95 medical masks and others.
- The effects of the changing decisions and recommendations by local leaders, politicians, and public health experts.
- The unusually high demand for these workers to clock in long hours.
- The stress of having colleagues and other people close to them getting infected and quarantined.
- The difficult balancing act between protecting themselves and their loved ones and helping others.
Also, when beds, ventilators, and staffing are no longer enough to help everyone, these workers may have to make the impossible decisions of which patients should get the lifesaving care. This has already been happening elsewhere in the world. In Italy, their overwhelmed healthcare system has forced doctors to choose younger and relatively healthier patients to be saved, according to Metro.
Despite these life-threatening risks, healthcare workers have responded impressively well. They are still willing to show up and put in long hours. They’ve made changes to their system, embracing telehealth, converting other hospital rooms into intensive care units, and creating improvised protective equipment — just so they can help and demonstrate compassion in these dark times.
Many organizations have also extended their help to healthcare workers through special perks. Here are some of them:
- Starbucks offers healthcare workers free brewed coffee every time they visit their stores.
- Krispy Kreme gives out original glazed donuts to healthcare workers every Monday.
- Steak and Shake gives out free orders of fries to essential workers.
- Circle K offers free coffee, tea, or Polar Pop Foundation drinks for healthcare workers.
- DoorDash doesn’t charge delivery fees for healthcare workers. They also offer discounts for selected restaurants.
- Healthcare workers visiting Hooters get 20% off.
- IHOP also grants a 20% discount to essential workers.
- Chipotle Mexican Grill donates a burrito to healthcare workers every time a customer participates in their program.
- Walmart is reserving their pickup services from 7:00 AM to 8:00 AM for healthcare workers and senior citizens.
- AAA offers free roadside assistance for health workers.
- Walgreens is giving healthcare workers, police, and first respondents a 30% discount on April 25.
Call for Healthcare Workers
Despite this, there is still a growing need for more healthcare workers on the front line. There may even be a decrease in their current workforce. In the Philippines, there is a ban against healthcare workers leaving the country, according to CNN. There are currently 150,000 Filipino nurses working in the US, according to the Philippine Nurses Association of America.
Because of this growing shortage, even retired healthcare workers are being asked back to work. According to The Guardian, government officials around the country are calling on these retired workers for help amid the outbreak. In New York, 1,000 of these workers respondent within the first day of the request.
Many universities are also offering vital healthcare degrees so those interested can start their education.
Hopefully, these measures are enough to sustain the struggling industry as it spearheads the response to this grueling pandemic.