Inspiration - the problem
Most Healthcare workers operate in an environment which is loaded by a high level of stress. People who decide to enter the healthcare profession typically have a strong resilience, which protects them against these source of stress, but above all they have a sort of vocation, an inner call to go and help other human beings. They express this call through focus on two aspects: care and cure. It is their ability to provide genuine care to relieve other human beings of their sufferance, and to provide a cure to their illnesses that motivates healthcare professionals to carry on with their mission and allows them to work efficiently. The COVID-19 emergency has disrupted all of this and created a new situation. Healthcare personnel is really struggling to carry on with their mission. They are unable to provide proper care, because they have no protocols to follow, they have to wear protective equipment which prevents the normal empathetic contact that is such an important part of their profession. Another barrier to providing proper care is the fact that the peak loads have created the need to move personnel around to different areas, staff at the front line inexperienced personnel still undergoing training, as well as changing shift patterns that have created in workers high levels of fatigue, isolation and detachment from normal family life. In addition, it is very hard to find a cure. This is largely unknown virus, there are no protocols to follow, and this creates the need to improvise, take sudden decisions that can mean life or death for the patient, without the comfort of knowing that they are following a tried and tested procedure. And the fact that due to peak loads staff has been reassigned in areas outside of their specialization has caused an extra layer on uncertainty, frustration, feeling powerless and useless. The result is a real crisis for healthcare personnel. Many of them feel like they are facing an invisible enemy. A study in China shows that healthcare workers responding to the spread of COVID-19 reported high rates of symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and distress. And studies in recent epidemic cases such as SARS and Ebola demonstrate that healthcare personnel have developed symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress. All of this adds to normal levels of what has been called “compassion fatigue”, and we believe that the worst impact is still to come, once the emergency is over. We know that many healthcare professionals are displaying insomnia, panic attacks, unexpected crying fits. In several cases this could bring to real identity crisis, as workers question their real role and value in life. And in fact there have been several cases of suicides.
The solution we bring to the table: Med-IT-Aid
To deal with this potential crisis, the institutional responses have focused on the development of protocols, policies and procedures to manage the emotional and mental distress, providing recommendations on “knowing what to do” in such emergency cases. However we believe that there is a need to further develop true life skills, in the space of “knowing how to be”, and through awareness and consciousness tap into the wealth of inner resources that each and every one of us has inside, but often buried below layers of uncertainty, fears, memories. Peeling through these layers, healthcare workers can find the inner resources to cope with and mitigate all the emotions and thoughts related to feeling powerless, useless, incapable of controlling events, feeling unable to manage conflicts, and deal with sufferance, loss and death. We have developed over the years some simple but profound tools, based on meditation, breathing techniques, getting connected with body feelings and emotions, 432 Hz music and so on. We want to make these tools available through something that we all have: a mobile phone. The Med-IT-Aid app can help Healthcare Workers recognise the emotions and thoughts which are hampering their well-being and work, and release them through the tools we have developed, which can be built into the app.
What we have accomplished during this hackathon weekend
We have interviewed experts. We have detailed the concept and identified an initial user pool with a narrow focus, in order to develop a MVP (minimum viable product) that could be simple enough yet effective with the targeted user base. We have developed an outline spec for the app in terms of functionality. We have networked with like-minded people we encountered in other teams.
The solution’s impact to the crisis
A Chinese proverb says “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. With our proposal we are trying to do exactly this: enable every healthcare worker to discover and get in touch with their inner resources to cope with the traumatic effects of working in intensive care departments during COVID emergency. The Med-IT-Aid app will initially provide a relief from the acute forms of distress which are hampering their work, but in time will gradually build inner strength and resilience which will enable much higher level of care for patients, as well as a healthier workforce.
The necessities in order to continue the project
We need technical support to develop the Med-IT-Aid app, and we are also looking for partnerships with institutions, hospitals, doctor and nurses associations and experts in this field. We aim to rapidly implement it to bring its benefits to healthcare workers and monitor through evaluation tools its impact on their wellbeing. For information on partnerships please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The value of our solution after the crisis
After deployment of Med-IT-Aid, all the protocols, policies and procedures which are being developed will find a much more fertile ground. We are proposing to join all efforts in developing an integrated roadmap for reskilling and reorganising the healthcare system. This will not only help the public and private healthcare sectors recover quickly from the emergency, and avoid a potential crisis, but also embed a long term resilience into the healthcare system.