- On September 11, 2020
- September / October 2020
There is a lot of research into COVID, but has anyone looked at its impact on the space-time continuum?
I RECENTLY attended a forum with former NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons to discuss learnings from the recent bushfire disaster and recommendations for a coordinated system response to natural disasters and emergencies. As the beginnings of this event were seeded by the 2019/2020 bushfires, it was necessary to reflect on a period that feels like a lifetime ago – Pre-COVID – or ‘PC’ as it will soon be known on the Gregorian calendar. It’s as if COVID has completely warped all perception of time and we’re now living in dog years. When the realisation of how dangerous this virus is started to emerge in Australia, it was like a switch turned on and suddenly everyone was living with a new level of heightened anxiety. There is perhaps less intensity now than there was in March – at least in NSW – but that switch has yet to be turned off. There is a wearing fatigue that has set in, particularly amongst health professionals. We are used to being the carers, but this year is unique in that we personally share many of the same stresses and anxieties as our patients. We can’t shrug off the work of the day as easily as we usually shrug off our scrubs. RUOK Day is coming up on 10 September and our message to members is ‘it’s ok to not be ok.’ But it’s important to know that resources and support exist specifically for medical professionals. The Doctors’ Health Advisory Service in NSW & ACT has a 24-hour helpline (02 9437 6552) that offers personal advice to medical practitioners and students facing difficulties. They receive calls in relation to stress, mental health issues, drug and alcohol problems, career crises and personal and relationship difficulties. You don’t need to be at crisis point to pick up the phone. A fellow doctor is always there to have a chat. DHAS’s experienced medical professionals understand the challenges you’re facing. DHAS recently employed a new medical director, Dr Kathryn Hutt, who is passionate about creating not only awareness of mental health issues amongst medical professionals, but providing the necessary support when doctors need it. The AMA (NSW) also supports the Medical Benevolent Association (MBA) which offers a supportive hand to help medical practitioners in need of counselling and/or financial assistance. Visit www.mbansw.org.au/ for more information.
And of course, we encourage all of you to have a regular GP. If you are looking for a GP who is interested in taking on doctors as patients, visit AMA (NSW)’s Doctors For Colleagues registry here www.amansw.com.au/member-benefits/gps-for-doctors-in-training/
We are always looking for more GPs to volunteer to be on this list, so please contact us if you’re interested.
So, as we trudge through a year that feels unbearably long and yet is also strangely zooming by, remember to carve out some space-time continuum for yourself. There’s a fair bit to go in this marathon, I fear, and to look after our patients we must first look after ourselves. The basics of sleep and good food, exercise and time with loved ones remain key. But if you’re finding it tough remember you don’t need to do it alone. Together, we will get through this.