In the battle against COVID-19, doctors need to save themselves from a burnout

Doctors have been under extreme stress since the coronavirus pandemic broke out. However, to be able to do their duty to the best of their ability, they need to start taking care of themselves.
doctor-patient relationship
The Covid-19 pandemic has been tough on doctors! Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Shashank Joshi Updated: 1 Jul 2020, 12:57 pm IST
  • 66

A small RNA virus has brought everyone’s life to a standstill, and completely turned the world of doctors upside down. During this acute health crisis, doctors and HCPs are at the front lines as healthcare services are placed under excess pressure. While every person is gaining their own knowledge of the virus, doctors have been left to demystify the truths and myths of it all.

1st July is celebrated as Doctor’s Day in our country and it is time we discussed the mental as well as emotional toll the pandemic has taken on the doctor community over the last few months.

In the quest to give their best to patients, doctors often ignore their own physical, emotional, and mental health. As the pandemic advances into its third month, doctors and nurses on the front lines admit to being physically and emotionally drained. Putting themselves at risk, there is a dire need to check their ‘stress thermometers’. A large percentage of healthcare professionals are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, and psychological distress.

Covid-19 era is tough for doctors as well
Even under normal circumstances, doctors lead a fast-paced life, often having little time for themselves, their families and are at the risk of burnout rapidly. This has only amplified during this era, which will soon be known as the ‘corona era’. It is tough for doctors to not only assimilate the right information, (which is authentic, peer-reviewed, and accurate) but also translate it immediately into lifesaving clinical care. 

Managing to grab minimal amounts of food and sleep, their brains are constantly wired to save lives and geared to care. They function in extraordinary situations – wearing protective gear for lengthy hours, self-isolation after high-risk exposure and medication to prevent themselves contracting the virus. This has mandated every health care professional to be not only physically strong but also, build ‘emotional muscle’ to hardwire their minds.

Some over-anxious and worried patients may come up with questions that may be totally out of the medical standard of care, based on some evidence recently published. Addressing this situation may need composure, and patient-ears to ‘listen’, which unfortunately due to time pressure, may be difficult. Putting themselves through a flood of emotional labour, it is a balancing act of keeping their own emotions in check. 

The virus is predictably unpredictable. However, variability is the inherent characteristic of the biological world. Medicine is an art as much as it is science. Most medical decisions follow a ‘Gaussian curve’, with 95% confidence limit, which means there always is a 5% chance of error. It is not a perfect mathematical science and is based on probability. 

Eating right and timely is the key, says Dr Joshi
Often, the uncertainty of the unknown makes even medical professionals vulnerable. Generating positive vibes is crucial for doctors as they are often looked up by others as role models. It is of utmost importance for doctors to eat on time, eat slow, and eat right.

They need to workout not only physically, but also engage in yogic exercises like pranayama, asanas, and meditation. Lack of sleep and stress are the key factors when it comes to burnouts. Sleeping for at least 7 to 8 hours is the key to the mind to make quick but rational decisions. The appropriate kind of mental health endorsement can foster resilience and provide medical workers with capabilities to manage stressors in the long run.

Doctors are human and are vulnerable, but if they avoid burnout and stay calm, they are torchbearers of hope. The current medical condition is all about ‘listening, learning, and adapting’ and requires shared decision-making in medical care. 

Select Topics of your interest and let us customize your feed.


While doctors always have their patients at the centre of their universe and aspire to provide the best patient care, they must not forget self-care. 

  • 66
About the Author

Dr. Shashank Joshi, an Indian endocrinologist, diabetologist, and medical researcher. ...Read More

Next Story