on Tuesday, 06 April 2021.

The Year 2021 has been designated by WHO as the _International Year ofHealth and Care Workers_ in appreciation and gratitude for their unwavering dedication in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In order for it to be beneficial, this year-long campaign must explore ways of how health workers can be more intentional about compassion for themselves while striving to show compassion to others. This article discusses the critical issues on compassion for health workers; highlighting what could be done to help them cope with the challenges
they face in line of duty. 

Definition of Compassion: The definition of compassion encompasses the recognition of the suffering of others and the need to act to help. It embodies a tangible expression of our humanity of empathy and caring for those who are suffering, and a desire to alleviate their distress. It is the knowledge that there can never be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy for you too. Lack of understanding of how to handle colleagues who are working under very stressful conditions can have major consequences on the psychological wellbeing and the performance of health workers. Supporting their psychological wellbeing must be a priority for health systems managers and the general population.


Experience from the field in Uganda: The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged and exceeded the capacity of hospitals and intensive care units (ICUs) across many countries. Health workers have continued to provide care for patients despite exhaustion, personal risk of infection, and fear of transmission to family members, illness or death of friends and colleagues, and the loss of many patients under their care. Sadly, health workers have also faced many additional sources of
stress and anxiety such as long work shifts, unprecedented social restrictions, and personal isolation, which have affected their ability to cope.

Front-line health workers dealing with COVID-19 have expressed serious concerns regarding the condition of services and the quality of support they get from their managers. They complain about inadequate supply of personal protection equipment (PPEs), and infrastructure limitations focus which makes them vulnerable to contracting the infection at the workplace. During the lockdown, some were assigned to long working hours; exerting emotional stress and physical exhaustion.

Insufficient resources and the absence of specific treatments forCOVID-19 added to the challenges of managing severely ill patients. The fear of transmitting COVID-19 to loved ones led many to self-isolate from their families for prolonged periods of time. Above all, they felt
neglected by apparent lack of a caring attitude from managers.

What can be done? We need to display greater kindness and empathy towards colleagues. Employers should love the people they lead and win their trust; feel for each other and share their pains. Front-line health workers should be given sufficient rest, time off, and provided
with basic tools to do their work.

Building leadership capacity and awareness on issues of compassion among supervisors and leaders at all levels is critical. We should also raise population and community awareness about the issues faced by health workers. We can take lessons from a recent event in the UK. People
across the country took part in mass applause for nurses and other frontline NHS staff, in praise of their work during the COVID-19pandemic. The ‘_Clap for Our Carers_’ initiative saw residents
applauding from their doorsteps, windows, and balconies, and motorists joining in by hooting their horns. Such simple acts of appreciation will go a long way to boost the morale of health workers.

What can we all do to raise awareness about compassion for health
David Okello

Comments (2)

  • Francis Omaswa

    Francis Omaswa

    06 April 2021 at 07:47 |
    Dear Ashgovnet Community,

    My colleague at ACHEST David Okello has posted this Blog on "Compassion for health Workers" so that we take note, comment, and take appropriate action wherever we are.
    The Hippocratic Oath which doctors affirm at graduation has a clause that requires doctors to look after their teachers but there is none that requires them to look after each other or indeed members of other health professions. The nearest to this in the Hippocratic Oath is the call not to hide any effective medical remedies from professional colleagues.
    As Dr. Okello has described, COVID -19 pandemic has shown how health workers have become stigmatized and shunned even by their own families just because they treat COVID-19 patients. This is on top of suffering the experience of watching helplessly as so many patients die under their care and working long hours without PPEs and adequate pay.

    During this year of the Health Care Worker, Ii calls upon all of us to work to put a spotlight on the need for "caring for the carer" by us fellow health workers, by our employers, and above all by the society and communities that we serve. Let us all advocate for this message of compassion for health workers wherever we are.
    Wishing the very best for ALL Health Workers.

    Francis Omaswa.
  • Peter Eriki

    Peter Eriki

    07 April 2021 at 14:01 |
    This Blog by Dr David Okello is so pertinent at this particular time when the World is observing a week which has been dedicated to the health worker (4-9 April 2021). This window of opportunity should be seized to disseminate this message widely in our WHO African Region and globally. Dr Peter Eriki.

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