The Psychological and Physical Implications of Covid-19 in Healthcare Organizations

In this time of uncertainty and sustained concerns and fears around Covid-19, there has been an extensive impact on the workplace – both physically and psychological. In this article, I address the Covid-19 background and data in the region of the country I live in. I will also cover workplace changes, emotional transitions, re-opening anxiety and ongoing employee stress.

Covid-19 Background

Covid-19, at present date (6/4/2020) has infected 6,563,099 people around the globe and killed 387,568. In the United States, there are 1,859,135 confirmed infections and 107,450 deaths. The fatality rate continues to be criticized while the illness is easily transmitted and acuity is extraordinarily high. In many cases patients are admitted for more than a week to treat a flu-related illness. As a country kid I lived near a very small town of roughly 500 people. While a low fatality rate is criticized, over 100,000 deaths equates to many small towns and communities.

Covid-19 enters and influences social, psychological, community and workplace settings in four key ways. First is the physical implication. Individuals become infected socially without knowing or they become infected from exposure to a known positively tested individual. The second way Covid-19 impacts our world is through overwhelming healthcare systems. Think of the explosion and propped up temporary hospitals in Italy that occurred, and in New York as well. The number of healthcare workers does not automatically go up to treat a virus; patients begin to significantly outweigh safe care practices by number of patients per nurse. As a result, facilities become over-extended and thus increased internal facility virus spread and community health hazards.

Third, Covid-19 implications are a result of media ‘over’ coverage. While awareness is a great thing, over coverage invokes human fear behavior changes that, in this situation, cause people to not go to the hospital for serious life-threatening conditions. Individuals with cardio health conditions that need to go to check-ups suddenly stop going. Those who would go to the ER and urgent care facilities suddenly take the risk in order to avoid Covid-19. Even further, individuals with mental health problems, drug addiction and rehabilitation needs also put off seeking care. Fourth, Covid-19 impacts influence public policy by causing non-essential business and services to come to a halt. This has significantly impacted economic conditions, unemployment and social behaviors in how individuals now are forced, and choose, to respond in different ways.

Data, Re-Opening and Anxiety

In the state of Wisconsin, where I currently reside, the state Supreme Court overturned the state governors stay at home order on May 13, 2020 and allowed businesses to start opening while emphasizing social distancing. At present, roughly 22 days later the state spiked record numbers four times with only three points of brief decline in total cases per day confirmed. What was not getting better suddenly got much worse. However, social settings in the community, such as bars and restaurants, continue to increase in volumes and social distancing is not being practiced while facemasks remain to be used by about half of individuals. In the same window of time, total deaths per day spiked six times with three short lulls in the data.

While the community has mixed emotions on re-opening the economy and communities, there remains a significant amount of anxiety in healthcare. Generally speaking, healthcare facilities are always ‘on guard’ to protect employees, visitors and patients. We look to healthcare for safety, advice and personal and social health. Yet in these times, when you walk into a hospital you’ll notice several things. First of which is empty parking lots; few are seeking care. Next, when you walk in to the front door you immediately come to a table with a large plexiglass barrier and an employee on the other side asking you about symptoms. Then, as you come to see, you and everyone else in the building is required to wear a mask at all times. You’ll also see social distancing markers on the floor in public spaces with waiting rooms with a fraction of the sitting capacity as compared to pre-Covid-19. Finally, you’ll notice the hospital is nearly empty with no visitors in the buildings; patients and clinical staff are the only people in the building. This is a significant difference than what is occurring in the community. It’s as though one exists in preparation for a war zone that the community seems to have forgotten while there is little decrease occurring in positive patients. This is particularly the case in Wisconsin where the total confirmed is rising day by day.

Physical Changes

In addition to the physical changes in the workplace mentioned above, there are other changes that have occurred. In hospitals, customers swipe their own card for payment, they cannot get fountain drinks, there are no salad bars, there is no way to dish food on their own; everything is done by employees. When you go to the Post Office you see an entire barrier of clear plastic across the entire counter with a small gap at the counter to pay for items, give your packages to the clerk and so forth. In some restaurants social distancing markers have been placed on the floors and payment is done touch free where employees do not touch anything in a shared manner.

Healthcare Employee Psychological Impacts

There are several psychological impacts from Covid-19. First, healthcare employees have to continue to digest the changes in their environment; barriers, constant masking, changes in policies, etc. There is also the continued increased level of potential exposures and future waves of infection. They also face increased workload demands and risks as hospitals expand opening of surgical procedures; more patients, less resources. Additionally, workload demands increase because peers resign, retire or quit their positions because of Covid-19.

The stressors of Covid-19 also influence attachment, motivation and organizational commitment. As I have covered before, motivation is determined by the presence and absence of particular workplace factors and the extent to which they are present or absent. Organizational commitment is based in ones emotional attachment to remain with an organization. Attachment is based on the trust and expectation that help and support will be available when it is needed and past experience continue to exhibit support for needs.

During the course of Covid-19, the CDC and hospitals began to bend the rules of acceptable PPE usage. Changes were suddenly accepted as reasonable practice because of the PPE strain and safety quickly exploded as a concern. For example, single use masks were now to be used for an entire working shift and isolation gowns had to be used for the entire shift. Things truly began to look like the Wild Wild West.

Due to environment during Covid-19, motivation factors adversely influenced include Company Policies, Relationship with Supervisors, Working Conditions and Safety. As outlined in my research on motivation and commitment, each construct is highly correlated. So, in other words, the more motivation is influenced, the more commitment is weakened.

As outlined, Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on healthcare employee psychological behaviors, physical changes and social dynamics. With no end in sight these things will continue to put pressure on sensitive areas of humanity.

An Insight Into the Different Sectors of the Healthcare Industry

Health has always been one of the major factors determining the growth magnitudes of the economy of any country. The margin between a developing and a developed country is often drawn based on the progress in the fields of healthcare. A strong healthcare sector refers to a lower death rate and a higher level of life expectancy, which largely influences the growth and development of any economy. Hence, it is critical that a country takes good care of its healthcare sector to cater to its populace in an effective manner and to contribute to the country’s growth index in a positive way.

As far as India is concerned, it has one of the largest and most diverse population frame comprising of individuals belonging to different social and economic conditions. To cater to the multiple needs arising out of the diverse living conditions in India, we have a healthcare sector that upholds a bunch of services ensuring good health and effective prevention. Though if we segregate the sector based on its functioning, you will find a lot of distinct sectors attached to the main industry. However, if we take a brief insight into the broad categories that serve as the backbone to the industry, we would have four major domains as described in the article below.

Hospital Services and Facilities

Hospitals are the primary lifeline of the health sector and the core of the health industry. Comprising of general medical hospitals, surgical hospitals, substance abuse and psychiatric hospitals, specialty hospitals, hospices and palliative care centers, family planning and abortion clinics, emergency and other outpatient care centers, dental laboratories, blood and organ banks, sleep disorder clinics, and more, hospitals form a long chain that binds the entire landscape together in terms of serving health to the people. There are residential and nursing care facilities available as well. Nursing, supervisory, residential care are some of the services that are available through this vertical. The other facilities extended through the hospital services are Urgent Care Centers, In-Home Senior Care, Mental Health and Residential Developmental Handicap Facilities, Community Care for the elderly, and so on. Besides, since it is critical that patients receive ambulance services in time, there are direct and indirect services available for ambulatory patients as well. The outpatient care centers, diagnostic centers, hospitals, and some private players in the field also provide this facility to guarantee uninterrupted health service.

Healthcare Equipment and Diagnostic Tools

The present-day advancement in science and technology has rendered the healthcare industry with some of the most innovative and effective equipment and processes to diagnose and treat the ailments as critical as cellular malignancy. There are multiple companies who cater to the rising demand of this equipment. In-Vitro diagnostic substances, ophthalmic goods, surgical appliances and supplies, Mammography Machine, Robotic Surgery Equipment, Venous Access Device, and Glucose Meter are some of the examples that help the healthcare professionals in treating and detecting the diseases in a streamlined manner. To manufacture and supply these, there is a huge industry involved that ensures smooth operations and timely delivery of the equipment and tools.

Medical/Health Insurance

Apart from the direct health care industry, there are services attached to it that render value to its being. Medical insurance and other organizations that back up the entire process of operations for the healthcare industry have a major impact on the existence and growth of this industry. With active participation and spontaneous service, medical insurance has become primary support for the majority of the treatments that involve considerable expenses. With facilities like TPA and cashless treatments, the patients can now enjoy a hassle-free treatment at best-facilitated hospitals.

Pharmaceuticals Sector

The pharmaceutical industry manufactures, markets, and innovates licensed drugs that are effective and integral for better healthcare facilities. This is a huge sector employing a large percentage of population to cater to the market requirements. From drug wholesalers to over the counter stores, the pharmaceutical industry is a major player in this domain. With the rise in the health consciousness in the general public, nutritional supplements have also taken a major share of the healthcare industry, which are again the products of the pharmaceutical sector only.

As the days have walked into modern times, the increasing level of dependency on technology along with the rising pollution levels have worked to make the diseases even more complicated and varied. Hence, it is imperative that there exists an equally strong healthcare sector guiding the mass to cure. With government interventions and private sector initiatives, the number of hospitals has increased over the years catering to a larger crowd. The other sectors like pharma, insurance, and medical equipment have also grown in parallel to support this emerging sector in every possible way. Covering a large landscape encompassing villages as well as the urban corners of the country, the healthcare sector promises high to keep up with the upcoming challenges and demands of the time.

The Future of Healthcare Laundry

According to American Laundry News, in the field of healthcare textiles, there are a few primary factors that will affect how the industry changes in upcoming years. Some of these factors include: rising environmental concerns, changes to national healthcare, and energy. Here is a brief analysis of how these factors could affect the healthcare laundry industry in the future.

Rising Environmental Concerns

With increased concern about the effects of pollution, global warming, and climate change, the "green" trend continues to gain momentum. More and more companies across all major industries are now striving to reduce their carbon footprint. It is projected that awareness of how business practices affect our environment will continue to grow in the next 20 years. Environmental concerns will likely reach the point that all professional laundry companies will need to treat their wastewater and reuse it.

Changes to National Healthcare

By the year 2033, it is very possible that the US healthcare laundry market will resemble the current Canadian laundry market. The majority of US healthcare could be government subsidized through a single provider network. If the government is the primary source of all revenue, it will be actively involved in seeking to control healthcare and related costs at all levels.

Healthcare administrators tend to view medical linen service as an unavoidable expense and continually search for ways to reduce those costs. This typically involves outsourcing, relying on contract management businesses, and limiting the number of items in the linen inventory. In the future, the government will likely look at establishing a network of healthcare laundries to provide standard service to all medical facilities.

Energy

The rise in environmental concerns will drive new energy legislation. To effectively reduce pollution caused by transportation vehicles, the government will continue to allow oil prices to rise. The increases in gasoline and diesel prices will cause consumers and companies alike to reduce their usage. Limiting fuel costs will mean that laundry locations must be carefully planned in relation to the geographic area that they are serving. Healthcare facilities will likely be assigned to the nearest medical laundry service in their area, eliminating competition.

Stay Ahead of the Curve with a Professional Linen Service

A professional healthcare laundry service can help your hospital, clinic, or other medical facility meet economic, disinfection, and patient satisfaction needs. As the medical linen industry continues to adapt to changes in both our economic and world climate, professional linen services must stay on the cutting edge of industry standards. While the future is uncertain in most industries, professional laundry services can help your medical facility continue to provide the best possible care and sanitation.