Safeguarding the mental health of front-line health workers

Through the James Walker Endowed Chair, Dr Mazvita Machinga and her team of diligent counselors are safeguarding the mental health of front- line healthcare workers in Manicaland by providing self- care counselling and teaching to those who care for others so that they are empowered to care for themselves.  Speaking of her motivation to initiate the series of self care workshops that has seen  over 80 healthcare professionals trained so far at the Manicaland Provincial Hospital, Dr. Machinga said, “Anxiety about  contracting COVID-19 from patients , about the possibility of going on to infect family members and the financial impact of the pandemic are being felt by many health care workers among them nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and others. A public health emergency on this scale makes the threat personal for health care workers.”

Dr. Machinga went on to explain that the shortage of Personal Protective Clothing or PPE that is being experienced globally compounds the fear and anxiety. She said, ” It seems inevitable that caring for patients in this high-stake context of COVID-19 takes its toll on the mental health of health care workers (HCW’s). It is these sometimes unbearable  feelings of anxiety, loneliness and fear in HCW’s that has led Africa University to facilitate these workshops  for care strategies.”

The James Walker Endowed Chair carries out community outreach activities that increase the institutions’ social responsibility footprint and impact. During the inclusive training workshops that included senior managers, nurses and doctors,  participants covered topics that ranged from emotional stressors and how to cope with these, psychological best practice in dealing with patients to reduce stigma and finally learning to overcome feelings of fear and anxiety.

The workshops have unearthed a trove of critical information and knowledge regarding the human response to pandemics in the health sector in Africa. These findings shall form the foundation of research that is being led by the Africa University Research Unit that shall contribute to the global discourse on the management of pandemics especially as it relates to Africa.