Although COVID-19 cases are dropping in the country and advances in technology are making regular patient consultations possible, many local healthcare professionals still find working under pandemic conditions overwhelming. Teleconsultations that last until late evening and being away from loved ones for extended periods are just some of the issues that continue to drain them to this point.
The webinar “Kumusta Dok — The Afterlife: Emerging After COVID” has provided healthcare professionals a way to identify and manage symptoms of burnout and achieve that balance of taking care of their patients and their well-being.
“Going through stressful life experiences can be unhealthy because this could lead to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, which we have commonly seen since the pandemic started,” webinar speaker Dr. Robert Buenaventura said. “If you show symptoms of burnout, it’s a good idea to see a mental health professional. You have to realize that help is available.”
Dr. Buenaventura is the head of the Department of Neurosciences at Manila Theological College and associate professor in human life span and psychiatry at La Consolacion University Philippines.
Kumusta Dok is an initiative that aims to empower patients to reconnect with their doctors during the new normal. The Kumusta Dok initiative also gives tips and updates on the channels available for patients to strengthen partnerships with doctors throughout the health-seeking journey. It shares efforts being made by healthcare facilities to ensure safety of patients and healthcare staff while delivering appropriate care. It likewise partners with medical societies to create educational and wellness platforms for healthcare professionals as we live through this pandemic.
Based on a study conducted during the height of the pandemic, out of 516 healthcare workersin the Philippines, 70.7% have anxiety symptoms. The study revealed that the pandemic had a psychological impact on the majority of healthcare workers.
According to Dr. Buenaventura, red flags to watch out for indicating too much stress or a mental health condition include a change in moods, memory, and behavior, as well as lower productivity and frequent absenteeism. Those who suffer mental burnout also have a tendency to withdraw from social connections and ignore personal self-care and hygiene.
To manage these symptoms and get a proper diagnosis or treatment plan, Dr. Buenaventura suggests seeking the help of a mental health professional who can be reached via teleconsultation or in-person visits. Another way to contact a mental health professional or a trained counselor is via anonymous, 24/7 hotlines.
“Consultations don’t necessarily have to be about a mental disorder,” Dr. Buenaventura added. “It can just be about the stress that can be managed by other means. But you need to identify and accept that the problem exists because that is the first step to doing something about it.”
Those who are not receptive to meeting a mental health professional can instead engage in doing stress management techniques to cope with burnout symptoms. Their options include exercise, adopting a healthy diet, or getting enough sleep. They can also try other therapeutic maneuvers such as meditation or mindfulness, correcting negative thoughts, or progressive muscle relaxation.
“Self-care is very crucial because it’s an integral part of professional fulfillment,” Dr. Buenaventura said.
If you’re a healthcare worker or know anyone who is showing symptoms of anxiety and burnout, take the necessary steps to get help. Consider taking a break or talking to a trusted friend or a professional.
 Marzo, Roy Rillera et al. Risk perception, mental health impacts and coping strategies during COVID-19 pandemic among Filipino healthcare workers. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34911287/