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Staying psychologically safe

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Staying psychologically safe as a doctor during the COVID-19 pandemic

Published in the BMJ, Family Medicine & Community Health Journal, January 2022.


  1. Jill Benson1,2, (Doctors' Health SA)
  2. Roger Sexton3, (Doctors' Health SA)
  3. Christopher Dowrick4,
  4. Christine Gibson5,
  5. Christos Lionis6,
  6. Joana Ferreira Veloso Gomes7,
  7. Maria Bakola8,
  8. Abdullah AlKhathami9,
  9. Shimnaz Nazeer10,
  10. Alkisti Igoumenaki11,
  11. Jinan Usta12,
  12. Bruce Arroll13,
  13. Evelyn van Weel-Baumgarten14 and
  14. Claudia Allen15

Correspondence to Dr Jill Benson;

Link to article here.

Download PDF here.

It is imperative that we are intentional in how we look after our psychological health. The COVID-19 pandemic is ‘not a sprint but a marathon’, and we need to ensure that our minds and bodies are healthy enough to endure.3 Many of our usual social structures will be disrupted—we may not have our normal family and friends around us, or might be working from home and have lost the boundaries between work and home. It is a time of much ‘doing’, but we need to still find time to just ‘be’.6
It is vital that we maintain our self-compassion and prevent compassion fatigue. We can act as Neff and Germer advise ‘to extend compassion towards ourselves when we experience suffering’.7 Compassion fatigue occurs when we are no longer able to preserve our capacity and interest in being empathic and hearing the suffering of our patients.8 We need to develop protective mechanisms in order to reduce compassion stress and enhance resilience with adequate self-care, compassion satisfaction and social support.9