Nur Afiqah Akmal Hisham submitted 2017-08-13

Not long ago a medical resident was photographed sleeping in between shifts, causing quite an outrage. Many deemed the medical resident unprofessional. The significance of the viral photo caused the public to realize that a health care provider also has basic human needs, such as rest. It goes without saying that the health care provider must be well prepared physically by ensuring that they have had enough rest before giving emergency medical care. To that end, this essay will discuss mental and physical preparation prior to carrying out emergency medical care responsibilities.

As a pre-med student, it is significant for me to be aware that mental and physical preparation are both integral aspects in facing challenges that often occur with emergency medical care . Currently my primary motivation is the occurrence of pandemics and how to manage the outbreak of specific pandemics.

My topic of interest for this essay’s purpose is the mental and physical preparation involved in managing the Ebola pandemic in Liberia from 2014–2015. Notably, Doctors Without Borders were directly involved in managing the Ebola pandemic in Liberia.

The organization found that there were not adequate spaces to accommodate the infected patients, indicating a need for dedicated physical preparation by way of more provisions be given to the treatment center through the relevant organizations responsible. This step enables more patients to be admitted into treatment centers. Another way in which the organization could be physically prepared for the situation was to raise awareness in how the family members could engage with the infected Ebola patient at home. Importantly, it is essential that the healthcare provider is mentally prepared of apparent cultural differences as well as emotional sensitivities that may arise from the stress of caring for an Ebola infected family member.

Personal protective equipment is an extremely important aspect of physical preparation to ensure the safety of the health care provider while in contact with the treatment of patients or deceased bodies of those previously infected. The Ebola pandemic consequently required equipment such as body suits to be taken off with the utmost care in order to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus. Therefore, proper disposal of personal protective equipment is an extremely important physical preparation in managing emergency Ebola medical care, as stressed by the Medical Director of Redemption Hospital in Liberia, Dr Mohammed Sankoh.

The Ebola disease has an incubation period of 2–21 days and unfortunately for the people of Liberia, most of the Ebola cases there lead to death. Notably, the chance of survival is very little especially in third world nations such as Liberia due to differing personal capabilities and limited equipment as noted by Dr Mohammed Sankoh. In the face of these circumstances, I strongly believe that the health care worker must be mentally prepared to utilize limited resources in the best way possible and more significantly persevere under less than ideal conditions.

The health care provider that originates from an environment different to the local community must be even more mentally prepared as there are more relevant issues to consider. For example, in Liberia there is a stigma within the local community upon learning that a neighbor has contracted the illness. The foreign based health care provider must take this stigma into consideration and be mindful to equip oneself with patience and indiscretion. Initial culture shock is also likely to occur as they integrate themselves within the local community. To that end, it is essential as a mental preparation measure, to keep an open mind prior to departure to the intended destination of where the pandemic is.

Natural camaraderie between health care providers is often a source of comfort and bonds that develop in the middle of the stress of a pandemic often leads to ties similar to those of familial nature. The special connection becomes even stronger as there is not one person who can understand the demands of a pandemic other than another colleague who is going through the same situation. However, loss of life among healthcare providers is common and the shock of losing someone you see daily would be not very different from losing a family member. The mental preparation in this instance would be to remind oneself that the deceased colleague would not want their demise to be the reason behind loss of focus to care for patients.

Mistakes are common even with the most experienced of health care providers. While ensuring that all the necessary physical and mental preparation measures have been devised to ensure there exists no room for error, it is also imperative to mentally prepare oneself for the occurrence of mistakes. It is essential to not fear mistakes, instead mistakes should be seen as lessons to be learned while managing emergency medical care. Mental preparation include taking a step back and being honest with oneself, physically taking responsibility for the error in question and ultimately ensuring the mistake does not happen again. A ‘good’ mistake, so to speak, is one where a team of health care providers can learn from one another and offer each other support and efficiently move on to a contingency plan.

While often times in the face of an outbreak there are events that can be predicted thus allowing for suitable mental and physical preparation measures to be devised, there are times when the management of a pandemic may not be as conveniently predicted as certain circumstances are beyond immediate control. To that end, I’d like to conclude this essay with the wise words of the philosopher Epictetus, words that I believe can be applied by not just healthcare providers in the middle of mental and physical preparation for emergency medical care, but to anyone. Epictetus once said “Some things are within our power, while others are not. Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion ,and, in a word, whatever is our own doing; not within our power are our body, our property, reputation, office, and in a word, whatever is not of our own doing.”