Australia was doing great, we were at zero cases daily for months. Everyone was out, restaurants were open, even bars. Then the delta variant hit and it all crumbled apart. Our government was working with a COVID zero model, and we had low vaccination rates. The case numbers have climbed to thousands daily, and our hospitals are at capacity.
Working as a health professional in this climate is high stress, even more than it was before.
One of the most difficult things for me has been the uncertainty. It’s Friday afternoon in Australia right now, and I still don’t know where I’m supposed to work tomorrow morning. All I know is that I need to show up tomorrow and Sunday, and they will tell me where to go. My roster for next week isn’t confirmed yet either, I’m expected to be there from Monday till the next Saturday again.
So I can guess I’m working 7 days straight again, but nothing is concrete.
It’s hard and frustrating. You feel as if your work has little interest in your life, and you are expected to be at home on call for whenever they need you. Relationships, free time, hobbies are negatively impacted.
It annoys me at times to have my time so poorly regarded. The hours they expect are not sustainable, and yet here I am still. Sometimes I feel dangerously close to breaking point.
Feeling like your workforce doesn’t care
We had a positive case in one of our staff members recently, with countless close contacts. Our work told us to continue as normal, “business as usual”. All the close contacts had to keep working, with COVID-19 swabs pending. Day eight post exposure they were told by public health to isolate until day 14, the fact that we were working closely with them for eight whole days made us feel like they didn’t care.
It seems like as long as the ward is staffed, they don’t care about the exposure to their staff.
More hoops to jump through + on the alert
Now everything is a little bit harder for patient care. There are no visitors, and we have to deal with turning families away. You must always be alert for patients who may have COVID-19 who weren’t adequately screened. No patients can be sent to a rehab or aged care home without a negative COVID swab.
If someone so much as sneezes, they score a swab and isolation room.
All swabs must be deisolated after speaking with an Infectious Disease specialist. Any exposures to patients and staff is a public health and infection control dilemma. Most of the time it’s the blind leading the blind, with no one wanting to take responsibility for the decision of isolating or not.
Being a junior doctor in this time makes you feel stuck in the middle of it all.
Self protection and mental wellbeing
I think one of the hardest things of this outbreak has been the high stress work environment that is chronically understaffed, with little out of work enjoyment.
We aren’t allowed to leave our local government area for anything but essential work. When you leave your house it can only be for exercising. Since Monday, they have released restrictions slightly, and you can go on an outdoor picnic with four vaccinated people from your local area.
It’s been a rough few months, and a tough few years.
I know everyone is struggling mentally, but I wrote this post after receiving my latest messed up roster from my work. Yet again, they have us working every weekend, yet again we are understaffed.
It’s not sustainable, and I’m thankful that I have no permanent job next year. I couldn’t take another year like this, even if it means I have no set income. It’s the risk I’m willing to take.
In the end, your health is more important than any job.