Getting back to normal proving difficult for health professionals

FRANCIS…it’s not as difficult as before (Photos: Naphtali Junior)

Health-care workers have admitted that as the country returns to normality they are having challenges getting back to their regular routines due to insomnia and difficulties in balancing personal care and their jobs.

The health professionals shared their experiences during the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange last week, ahead of the start of the Ministry of Health and Wellness’s observation of Healthcare Workers Appreciation Month now under way.

They said that during the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic their workloads intensified, causing other areas of their lives to be neglected.

“There were some of us who used to do 24 hours of service, but what I am hearing, and I do believe it is true because I am experiencing it too, is that we can’t sleep. We are used to being up, so it’s harder to fall asleep,” said Mitchelle Maylor-Archat, co-ordinator medical technical services.

MAYLOR-ARCHAT… there is this sleep deficit amongst us

“People are up 1:00 am, 2:00 am and when it’s going to 3:00 am, that’s the time you want to sleep, and the truth is, you will try to fall asleep but it’s just not coming. Some of my staff members and I find it very disturbing and I think the health ministry is going to have a lot of work to do when it comes on to mental health within the health-care setting,” she added.

“Whatever used to work for them is not working anymore, so there is this sleep deficit amongst us. To say that we are getting back to normal, it’s going to be a new normal, it’s not going to be the same. We are not anywhere near that… working normal hours,” she said.

Associate Clinical Psychologist Keisha Bowla-Hines said, while there were other problems during the pandemic, “COVID-19 was louder”.

BOWLA-HINES… now that the pandemic is a bit better understood, other issues that were normally there have now regained their prominence (Photos: Naphtali Junior)

“It was stronger, it smelled different, it tasted different, it felt different, and so all of the attention and resources were focused on COVID-19-related issues,” she said.

“Now that the pandemic is a bit better understood, other issues that were normally there have now regained their prominence,” she said.

“As a psychologist, all that could really happen for me is that there is a shift from focus on COVID-19-related issues to other issues that are of concern to my patients and clients. Really, it’s just continuing to provide support as needed to each client and patient who I see,” she said.

At the same time, Dr Susan Strachan Johnson said answering phone calls became exhausting. So, these days, she has to put her phone away to make room for family time.

STRACHAN JOHNSON… I would have auditory hallucinations that the phone is ringing

“From the start of the pandemic I moved from working five days a week to seven days a week, 24 hours a day, taking calls on that dreaded CUG (closed user group) phone. I would have auditory hallucinations that the phone is ringing. It was ringing so much, and if I turn it on silent and forget, I’d run and look on the phone to see if anybody called me. It was really bad,” explained Dr Strachan Johnson, the acting senior medical officer of health at the Kingston and St Andrew Health Department.

“The first step for me now is that after certain hours of the night I have to put it away a little bit so that I can interact with my family. It is a new normal. What is challenging is trying to incorporate everything, because the expectation is that you would have to do everything and you have to do it effectively and efficiently,” she said.

However, nurse Sophia Francis, who works at National Chest Hospital, said she is having little difficulty getting back into a normal job routine.

“Patient care is what we do, so, therefore, it’s not hard to go back to norm because that is what we do on a daily basis; it’s just that it’s not as difficult as before, it’s easier now,” she said.


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