You Think You’re Stressed? Health Care Providers Need Support, Too


About the Authors

Kira Oyama

Kira Oyama is currently working towards her master’s in Population Health Nursing at the University of Hawaii Manoa and is currently working as an RN at the Queen’s Medical Center.

Fary Maldonado

Fary Maldonado is a veteran and a Ph.D. student at the University of Hawaii Manoa. He currently dedicates himself to volunteering within both the academic research environment and the veteran community.


The year 2020 will likely be known as the “Year of COVID-19.” The struggles and sacrifices of our health care workers to give high quality care in this time of uncertainty, stress, limited resources, political battles, and isolation protocols have been immense.

It is vital that these frontline workers feel as safe and supported as possible during this time. Not only are they at an increased risk of catching the disease, but they are also at a much higher risk for developing mental illness during or after this stressful time.

If our health care workers are not properly cared for, who will be there to care for everyone else?

As seen across numerous news outlets and social media accounts, hospital staff and first responders have been dealing with the stress of a lack of personal protective equipment, leaving many feeling unsafe and exposed. At the peak of COVID-19 in the U.S. when masks were limited or not available, the CDC recommended for frontline workers to utilize bandanas and scarves when caring for COVID-19 positive patients.

The information provided for “safe practices” was unpredictable and inconsistent across states, institutions, and even units, which often heightened feelings of mistrust and fear. Many frontline health care workers fell ill to the virus totaling at least 600 deaths.

The added stress of the possible transmission of the virus to loved ones also left many feeling alone and isolated. Many photos shared online were seen of ER physicians camping out in tents in their garages or backyards in order to keep their families safe. Health care workers isolated themselves from others as they worked brutal hours to address this crisis.

A medical technician prepares to perform a COVID-19 test during a drive-through testing event on Oahu, HI. (Ronen Zilberman photo Civil Beat)

A medical technician prepares to perform a COVID-19 test during a drive-through testing event on Oahu on Tuesday. Frontline workers need everyone’s support during this pandemic.

Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat

During these extraordinary sacrifices, health care workers were also seen as possible vectors for the virus, increasing fear amongst the general public. Increased incidences of abuse and harassment against those wearing scrubs and hospital uniforms were seen throughout the world. Mexican state authorities had special buses arranged for nurses traveling to and from work, and in areas of Australia, hospitals urged their staff to not wear their uniforms in public.

Even in our state, a Facebook post mentioned harassment of a health care provider on Maui.

How can health care workers feel supported during a time when they are needed the most?

First, it is important to assess the areas of the highest need. A team at Stanford Medicine held several sessions with physicians, nurses, and other health care workers to find out their top concerns regarding the pandemic in April 2020. These were the top eight sources of anxiety mentioned:

  • access to appropriate personal protective equipment;
  • exposure to COVID-19 at work and bringing the infection home to their families;
  • the lack of access to rapid testing of symptoms along with the threat of spreading the virus at the workplace;
  • the uncertainty of support and care from their organizations;
  • access to child care during increased work hours and school closures;
  • finding support for personal and family needs, such as food and lodging, as work hours and demands increased;
  • providing competent medical care if deployed to a new department (for example, a nurse who does not work in the ICU being assigned to this unit); and
  • the lack of access to up-to-date information and communication.

Strong leadership and community support go a long way in creating a positive change. Maintaining open communication among leaders and consistent feedback from health care professionals will assist in ensuring needs are being met.

Back in March, as hospitals in Hawaii prepared for the worst, community members around the state stepped up to the plate to help health care and frontline workers. Numerous donations of medical equipment and PPE were delivered to hospitals and other medical facilities. Community members, schools, and various companies utilized their equipment to manufacture home-made PPE, such as face shields and masks.

Today, all of the hard work and donations made by the public are also greatly appreciated.

It is vital that frontline workers feel as safe and supported as possible.

With the increased threat of a second-wave, it is important to take this time to make appropriate preparations. Health care workers understand the risks that come with their chosen profession, therefore they are ready and willing to perform their duties and ensure the safety and protection of their patients. They simply seek the reassurance of their own safety and protection for themselves and their loved ones.

While frontline workers combat against the effects of COVID-19 with determination and courage, we can all aid in their efforts by complying with WHO and CDC guidelines, donating, and spreading awareness of the virus around the world.

As health care and social service providers ourselves, this would be very much appreciated.

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About the Authors

Kira Oyama

Kira Oyama is currently working towards her master’s in Population Health Nursing at the University of Hawaii Manoa and is currently working as an RN at the Queen’s Medical Center.

Fary Maldonado

Fary Maldonado is a veteran and a Ph.D. student at the University of Hawaii Manoa. He currently dedicates himself to volunteering within both the academic research environment and the veteran community.


Latest Comments (0)

Thank you Debby, and thank you to all of the health care workers throughout the State and Nation; families included!

ddperry · 1 month ago

Being a medical provider is tough right now.  We worry about unknowingly catching the virus.  The "rules of engagement" change as we know more about the enemy.  With the new information from WHO about airborne transmission,  I now work in a full face shield (which fogs), mask, gown, gloves.  I De-gown properly, and wear only cotton washable clothes underneath, so they immediately go into the wash when home.  I am sure  make minor mistakes, and recently was told to sanitize the bottom of my shoes.  Fatigue is setting in.  If you want to help the cause and keep the numbers down, please cooperate with the recommendations of masks, 6 foot spacing, and no large gatherings.  We are all in this together if we want to be or not, you cant opt out, so please play by the rules.

Debby · 1 month ago

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