East Grampians Health Services staff recently donned their wackiest socks to mark Crazy Sock 4 Docs Day and bring attention to the mental wellbeing of doctors and other healthcare workers.
Crazy Sock 4 Docs Day is held annually on June 4. Its aim to normalise the conversation around mental health is particularly topical in 2021, with healthcare workers have faced many different challenges caused by COVID-19.
East Grampians Health Services director of clinical services Peter Armstrong said that medical staff had faced a unique set of challenges during this period.
"Certainly last year, when everyone else was in lockdown, we all thought we were pretty lucky that we could keep working and have a reason to get out and about. So for some, working in our industry was a benefit last year because we could continue doing it while a lot of people were deprived of being able to work and an income as a result," he said.
"The biggest impact for others was the amount of work because everything just got busier, and the workforce was stretched.
"All health services are finding that there were a lot of people last year that didn't seek care because they were worried about getting exposed to something, so there is an increased workload this year as a result of people not accessing care last year. That's certainly had a impact."
While the increased workload subsequently remains, healthcare workers now understand the virus and how to manage its risks.
Mr Armstrong said the initial uncertainty created considerable unease.
"Early on the concern that you would be exposed to an illness that you might take home to your family was something people were worried about and still are to a degree," he said.
"There's been a lot more training involved for staff about how to do things and how to respond to the pandemic now.
"For us, it was a lot different than working in the metro hospitals in Melbourne or especially working overseas where healthcare workers were dying."
The pressure the pandemic has placed on healthcare workers mental wellbeing has forced a change in practices.
Mr Armstrong said East Grampians Health Services had implemented various measures to support their staff that will now remain in place.
"We've tried to share all the information we've had because we've found it certainly helps if people have good, clear information," he said.
"We've got an employee assistance program in place for people to access, and we've trained all of the management about how to respond to the needs of staff and to reach out to them, make sure they're okay, and to lead them to supports where needed.
"I always think if you're not looking after each other how can you look after others? So I think the more we do to support staff the better it will be for us in the long term."
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