COVID-19 and Wellbeing

22 March 2020

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) acknowledges the risk posed to the community, healthcare workers, and all patients, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While there has been much (entirely appropriate) focus on physical welfare and economic implications, the purpose of this communiqué is to highlight the importance of emotional wellbeing for our members.

Our members and staff are directly, or indirectly, involved in patient care. We carry a huge burden of responsibility. Further, RANZCOG is a leader in women’s healthcare in Australia and New Zealand. We train the workforce of the future, maintain standards in obstetrics and gynaecology and, in an anxious world, share our expertise with the public.

We need to remember, and constantly remind ourselves, that we i.e. health professionals, are not immune to the physical and emotional impacts of the pandemic. Doctors, midwives and nurses often deny our vulnerability. We feel a need to “be strong”, to continue to serve the needs of others, to sacrifice our own health and welfare, to see ourselves as indispensable. That dedication comes at a cost, both to ourselves, and to those close to us.

To continue to care for others, we must care for ourselves. Accepting this is reasonable, sensible and important. It fits with our professional responsibility. It will result in the most good being done, for the most people. Fatigue, burnout, physical illness, anxiety and depression are all more prevalent within our profession. That is not a weakness. It’s a reminder that we are people too. Doctors also have children, elderly relatives, friends and family. Doctors also worry – about our jobs, our income, our health and those whom we love. We’re just reluctant to admit it to ourselves, or each other.

So, I’ll go first. I’m watching the news constantly on television and social media. I’ve had multiple conversations with my 5 children, trying to convey the importance of social distancing while understanding that they just don’t get it. My 80 year old father has just been diagnosed with lymphoma, is on chemotherapy and is neutropaenic. My mother is “just popping out to the market”! I’m already sick of being at home (although I have discovered the joys of binge watching!). I’ve broken some of the rules of social distancing and I feel guilty about that.

For our members engaged in clinical work, the scenario is uncertain and frightening. Images from Italy and around the world fill us with dread. The need to continue to practice medicine at our usually high standard, to remain compassionate and understanding when our patients are experiencing heightened anxiety, to manage practices and hospital departments, and the expectations of others, is overwhelming.

If you are confirmed to have COVID-19 seek all appropriate medical care and if you have to isolate don’t be “isolated”. You’re not letting anyone down and it’s not your fault. If you’re physically able, there are still many services that you can provide online. Telehealth is now supported in Australia and New Zealand. Organise a student or registrar teaching session, a journal club or examination practice.

While we can’t hug or congregate, we can connect, and connection is what sustains the spirit and the soul. From Melinda Gates, “Deep human connection is ... the purpose and the result of a meaningful life - and it will inspire the most amazing acts of love, generosity, and humanity.” The College will continue to connect with you and we’re asking you to connect with each other.

Starting from Monday, we will be posting positive messages from our members and staff. Let’s share our thoughts, feelings and experiences. We may not be physically together but we are still a family, the RANZCOG family, your family. Written messages of up to 200 words or short, 30 second, videos can be sent to Andre Khoury, RANZCOG Head of Communications and Public Affairs at [email protected]

So, let’s do what we do best. Let’s demonstrate compassion and kindness. Let’s look for, and find, the goodness in others. Be generous in your attitude and communicate openly and respectfully. We have to avoid yelling on social media and on email. Talk to each other rather than harbouring resentments. Be gentle and let’s give one another some latitude. “Perfection is the enemy of the good”, whether we demand it of others, or of ourselves.

You still need to eat and drink, exercise and sleep. You still need to feed your soul – reading, listening to music, watching a movie or enjoying a meal. Thank you for the support that you have given to me, the Board, our CEO and staff. We remain committed to serving you, the College and the community of Australia and New Zealand. It isn’t a difficult task…because you matter.

Best wishes,

Dr Vijay Roach

For support
Trainee Liaison
Carly Moorfield
p: +618 6102 2096
e: [email protected]

Wellbeing Coordinator
Clare Wells
p: +613 9114 3939
e: [email protected]

If you would like to speak to someone outside the College for support we encourage you to access Converge International (specialists in psychology, mental health and wellbeing) on 1300 687 327 (Australia), 0800 666 367 (New Zealand) or, from other countries on +613 8620 5300.



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