The strain of COVID-19 on emergency medical workers
When the COVID-19 pandemic triggered the first of several lockdowns, people cheered for medics through windows that were open every evening at sunset. Now, the latest news regarding viral hotspots and hospital systems becoming overwhelmed seems normal. This has wreaked havoc throughout the medical community, but particularly on medical workers and emergency medical technicians (paramedics).
People need to know how COVID-19 is affecting paramedics so that lasting solutions can solve their most pressing problems.
They work overtime
Cities and rural areas face different levels of the spread of COVID-19 depending on their population size and mitigation measures. Whenever cases start to increase, paramedics have to work overtime. People call ambulances to take them to the nearest hospital when they cannot breathe deeply or when a family member needs immediate medical attention. There are so many calls that some patients hours of waiting in ambulance bays while hospitals try to find space for them.
EMT workers are in the midst of every patient and their doctor. They are working overtime to make sure everyone gets the help they need, but the overtime is more crushing than before the start of the pandemic. The first COVID-19 response bill left ambulance drivers excluded from the risk premium, leaving many people unpaid for their many hours of overtime and exposure to the airborne virus.
They are much more understaffed
Medical staff have been on the front lines of the pandemic long after the first wave began to end in New York City in the spring of 2020. They are still dealing with waves of patients who don’t always come back through the front doors. A recent survey shows that 3 in 10 healthcare workers quit due to pandemic trauma created by the repeated loss of patients, working long hours and fear for their personal safety.
Anyone wondering how COVID-19 is affecting paramedics should look to the personnel lists. Each worker has to work longer shifts because there is no one to replace them. Although the situation has inspired many people to become paramedics, there is still a significant shortage of workers to handle the ongoing waves in large cities and rural areas. Some states, such as Texas, do not require 15 weeks of training to become a certified EMT, but others take much longer, meaning hospital systems cannot always fill their vacancies.
They manage new protocols
The protocols are part of the pressure from COVID-19 on EMS workers as they must continue to manage workplace standards that make their jobs more difficult. The exchange of personal protective equipment (PPE) between patients and the maintenance of a social distance make responding to emergencies more difficult than in the past.
Minutes spent swapping gowns or masks or debating social distancing with people at the scene of medical emergencies take time to care for patients and do their jobs.
They juggle with constant updates
COVID-19 is still a new virus, so the science regarding its nature and how to deal with it can be updated frequently. Staying up to date requires a reliable and constant flow of information between hospital administration, medical supervisors and team members. Communicating is not always easy, especially for paramedics in the field.
EMT volunteers and staff should remember the latest updates that affect themselves and their patients in order to provide the best care. When new variations appear, they should search for the latest updates regarding testing and vaccination to be able to go to work safely. EMT members also need to know what scientific breakthroughs have taken place to best treat people with COVID-19 who need their expertise.
They fight against patient misinformation
Misinformation is rampant and is unlikely to go away anytime soon. Anyone who wants to know how COVID-19 has affected emergency medical workers can look to patient interactions to see that misinformation is hurting people. Some patients with symptoms of COVID-19 fear of being treated with less respect by medical workers because they are not vaccinated, so they can treat EMT workers with hostility from the start.
Patients too advocate for drugs not approved by the FDA to treat their COVID-19 symptoms because they don’t trust the proven and effective treatments available in the hospital. Some people even believe in misinformation so much that they deny that they are dying when EMT workers can’t do anything for them.
Misinformation increases the pressure of COVID-19 on EMS workers because it is not their job to fight viral social media posts and debate with their patients. This makes their responsibility to treat and care for patients much more difficult when the same patients do not trust their training or medical knowledge.
EMS workers and ongoing COVID battles
People who want to know how COVID-19 has affected emergency medical workers should focus on these pressing issues. EMT and EMS workers cannot continue doing their jobs with immense pressure to work longer hours, low pay and extreme exposure. They need help in the form of additional volunteers and public support in the form of reducing the spread of disinformation and COVID-19.