Effects of Pandemic on Young Healthcare Workers

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Synopsis: Need to give attention to the requirements of the most vulnerable members of the caregiving team i.e. young healthcare workers.


young medical interns, postgraduates, nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists, etc are at the lowest steps in the hierarchy of training. It seems fair from an academic view and is according to any professional training path. However, this structure is apathetic for young health care workers.

  • Even before the pandemic, duty hour restrictions were not followed for young healthcare workers. Sleep-deprived postgraduates used to work for 100-hours in a week. 
  • There is inconsistency in stipends rates. For example, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh offer the lowest monthly stipends to first-year residents at Rs 35-37,000.
What are the adverse effects of the pandemic on young healthcare workers?

During the pandemic, most public hospitals had young interns, postgraduates, nurses, and technicians staff in fever clinics, wards, and ICUs. They were overworked by the huge volume of patients. 

  1. Firstly, they are physically distressed by working for 8-12 hours in a stuffy PPE suit and tightly-fitted face mask. One cannot even take a toilet break.
    • It requires a tremendous cognitive effort to manage complex ventilator settings and drug interactions. Especially when the patient is admitted to the Covid-19 ward with multiple co-morbidities. 
  2. Secondly, as the second wave hit, hospitals increased their beds and ICU capacity. But the healthcare workers remained overstretched. The burden further increased by poorly-informed public health measures and an increase in public frustration and indifference. 
  3. Thirdly, the NEET postgraduate exams this year have been delayed. The shortage of workers will continue to overburden them.
  4. Fourthly, the growing amount of disinformation on social media which adds to distrust against doctors and nurses has left most trainees in an unfortunate position. They are defending their worth and the firmness of scientific evidence that updates medical practice. 
    • They also have to defend themselves against the several instances of violence and abuse by patient attendees.
  5. Fifthly, all of these factors have taken a toll on the well-being of young trainees. They are away from their families and the uncertainty about their safety amidst a global pandemic affects their mental health. 
  6. Sixthly, suicide has claimed the lives of students, interns, and postgraduates in the last year across the country. Reasons were the stress of persistent duty hours, (some even suffering from severe conditions themselves).
The conclusion 
  • It is time we bring an end to our indifference towards young healthcare workers. There should be some amendments to the Epidemic Disease Act to protect frontline workers from exploitation. They should be provided with centrally-sponsored insurance schemes. 
  • Citizens must now speak out against the exploitation of young trainees. It should be a moral responsibility to end this toxic culture that feeds off public apathy.

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