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Health and Wellbeing in the Time of COVID-19

Though this may sound basic, please remember that if the COVID-19 news becomes distressing, take a break from it. We do not know when this situation will change or end. But we know it will.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the College has established a COVID-19 section on the website. Information is also available on the VTP home and the CPD home.

The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) have curated an excellent site for maintaining health and wellbeing in the face of COVID-19. RANZCO trainee, Mia Zhang has reviewed it and her recommendations are:

Pyramid taken from the ‘Looking after your mental wellbeing’ resource provided by ANZCA.

Silver Linings from COVID-19

Below are some insights from Fellows into the silver linings from COVID-19 — the good that comes from the bad.

Logan Mitchell, FRANZCO, NZ

As stressful as the transition to and then out of lockdown (Level 4) with all of its uncertainty and last minute changes, I have to say that the 5 weeks or so of lockdown were actually a real blessing! The day I went back to (limited) work in Level 3, my wife said, “these have been the best 5 weeks of our lives.” We, with our 3 girls, had a really lovely time spending time together, exercising together, cooking and baking. It’s amazing to think that it takes this sort of disruptive event (probably like bereavements or critical illnesses do) to realise what the really important things are in life, and to be able to enjoy and appreciate them.

So for us, silver linings that we have tried to hang on to have been those special family times; to actually value them and protect them from all the myriad other ‘busy’ things that creep up on us and end up displacing the most important things. It’s proving difficult for sure, but we now have a reference point to compare and recalibrate to.

Work-wise, the stresses of lockdown arrangements and social distancing for patients have led to some improvements in workflow that I am continuing. This includes increased use of telephonic reviews (e.g. for post-op checks), and a lengthening of appointment times, basically creating a more patient-centric practice that is actually a much more pleasant and less stressful environment to work in!

Andrew Thompson, FRANZCO, NZ

The dreaded nature of lockdown and necessary preparations required of the workplace invoked stress amongst many of our staff. Daily bubbles (not the champagne type) were established comprising one doctor and a small team of staff and each bubble worked one day a week. This meant the rest of us had 6 days each week away from work.

Two days prior to lockdown coming into effect, I raced to the hardware store to buy paint brushes, thinking I could get some long overdue jobs done around the property, but there were only 3 paint brushes left on the entire stand. Obviously others had the same intent. However, I had enough other supplies at home and plenty of time to get things done. For some bizarre reason, we had most of the jobs done within the first 2 weeks and there were still 2 weeks to go. With the 20 something trees flanking the driveway and those in the orchard pruned and gardens weeded, the property had never looked so good. We live next to a reserve with a walkway extending in each direction and the family spent many hours riding our bikes backwards and forwards with many other families doing the same thing. Surprisingly, home schooling went well without too many arguments. I think we were fortunate in that we have a big property and are well set up to enjoy it with lots of things to do that we never felt as if we were locked down. Maybe the daily happy hour helped and we were known to have a few Zoom happy hours with colleagues and friends. One of my passions is music and I finally recorded a CD of my piano playing for my mother who had been asking for a recording for well over 10 years.

Despite the thought of lockdown, the extended family time was one of the best features. It also offered time to reflect on what is important in life. Since being back at work, I have restructured my theatre lists such that they are not as long and arduous as they were before. This gives an earlier finish on an operating day and allows me to attend my son’s swimming lessons. The lockdown also gave me an insight into what retirement might be like and if I could afford to, I would retire now! The hardest part of lockdown was remembering to go to work on the one day of the week I was rostered.

David Andrews, RANZCO CEO, Sydney

While the rest of Australia is not experiencing the lockdown situation in Victoria, it is clearly too easy to head down that path. One of the upsides of working from home is the time saved in commuting, which I have managed to largely put into more exercise. Even though I was relatively active before COVID-19, the exercise has been great for my mental wellbeing as well as physical health. Another upside has been the decrease in travel, which has gone from almost weekly to none. While every meeting is not as effective virtually, I can’t see the need for such frequent travel ever returning, which will hopefully mean more time for my continued exercise program. I think everyone should be careful not to fill the extra hours with more work.

Justin Mora, FRANZCO, Director and Censor-in-Chief, NZ

As a New Zealand-based CIC, the last 4 years have seen me on a plane to somewhere in Australia about every third weekend. While Zoom has its limitations, the revelation of the effectiveness of online meetings has meant a drastic reduction to travel. That has been great for me and my family, not to mention for the environment.

In anticipation of continuing this way, the travel budget for next year has been dramatically reduced so more resource can go into front line education activities.

Diana Conrad, FRANZCO and Director, QLD

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely restricted travel—both within Australia and overseas. As it is not possible to visit distant friends and family, I have been much more motivated to make random phone calls to catch up. This has helped reduce the feelings of isolation and it has been great to remind ourselves of the power of the human voice! I sincerely hope this increased spontaneous communication continues well after the pandemic has disappeared!

Last updated: August 12, 2020

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