by Deborah Swanson
Juggling healthcare work with parenting was already a challenge in the best of times, and the pandemic has made everything 10 times harder. Now providers worry about bringing the virus home to their kids while simultaneously managing unprecedented situations at work. If you’re a healthcare worker with kids, here are seven suggestions for coping with the ongoing pandemic.
Consider Your Risk Factors
Not every healthcare worker is exposed equally to coronavirus. Likewise, not every healthcare worker is equally vulnerable or has a family member who’s equally vulnerable to the disease. If your line of work doesn’t bring you into contact with infectious patients that much, and no one in your family is high risk, you might be able to continue seeing your family as long as you wear proper protective gear at work, wash your hands often and clean yourself as soon as you get home. However, if you’re working directly with COVID patients, or your spouse and/or your kids are at a higher risk, it’s worth taking extra precautions and considering how much exposure you and your family are comfortable with.
Get Partners and Family Members Involved
If you’re raising your kids with a partner, both of you should talk about your comfort levels and exactly what risks you’ll be running at work. If you decide to self-isolate from your family (more on how to do this below), your partner will also have to take on more housework and childcare, so that’s a conversation that you need to have together. You might also want to turn to parents or in-laws for child assistance if they live nearby, but, again, you need to evaluate the risk factors. Grandparents are likely to be older and thus at a higher risk, and if you see your kids at home and then your spouse drops them off at grandma’s, the kids could transmit the infection even if they don’t have symptoms. If your spouse can’t watch the kids in your stead—maybe you both work in healthcare—it might be wise to temporarily have your kids stay with another relative.
If you don’t have people in the area that your kids can stay with, and you know you’ll be exposed to infectious patients, it might be best to self-isolate from the others in your household. This means sleeping in a separate room, using a separate bathroom and avoiding common areas such as the kitchen and living room. Your partner can bring meals to you and then take the dishes away. In some hotspots, hotels and other rentals are also offering rooms for free or cheap to healthcare workers who are exposing themselves to the virus and don’t feel comfortable staying at home. While it’s tough to be separated from their families, for many, it’s worth the peace of mind so they don’t have to fret about whether or not they have infected their partner or children.
Talk with Your Kids About COVID-19
In addition to talking with your partner, you should also talk with your kids about the coronavirus pandemic and what it means. Obviously, you want to go into an appropriate amount of detail for their age range. A good first step can be asking them what they know and what questions they have about coronavirus. Talk to them about how the virus spreads and what they can personally do to help keep themselves safe (i.e., washing their hands). Try to limit their exposure to the news. There’s no need to worry them unduly. If you will be isolating from them or otherwise changing your routine because of your healthcare job, explain to them why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Take Advantage of Technology
Whether or not you choose to self-isolate from your family, technology will play a big role in keeping you connected to both your nuclear and extended family, as well as friends and other loved ones scattered around the world. You might need to help older relatives figure out call technology so they can chat with the grandkids, and you can show your kids how to use their devices to keep in touch with their friends virtually. It’s not the same as being together in person, but these virtual connections can make you and your kids feel less alone as social distancing wears on.
Follow Best Sanitation Practices
Your hospital has probably put out guidelines explaining best sanitation practices for your department when it comes to reducing coronavirus transmission. Be sure to follow these guidelines, which includes donning proper PPE, washing your hands regularly and wearing a mask at all times. Some healthcare workers are also taking additional steps, such as changing at work and bringing home their worn cotton scrubs in a sealed bag. Many also leave their shoes at the door of their house (which you should be doing anyway), disrobe as soon as they get inside and wash all their clothes on the hottest possible cycle while they take a shower. Don’t forget to disinfect any devices, like your cell phone or pager, as well to help keep your family safe.
Have an Emergency Plan in Place
Regardless of what you decide to do, you need to have a game plan in place in case you, your partner or one of your kids start exhibiting symptoms that are in line with coronavirus. You should know which doctors to call, where to get tested and what you will do if the test comes back either positive or negative. You might also find it helpful to keep a “go bag” packed in case you need to suddenly self-isolate or head to the hospital. Hopefully, you’ll never have to put the plan into action, but laying it all out ahead of time will greatly reduce your stress and panic if worst comes to worst.
Parenting is hard, parenting during a pandemic is harder and parenting as a healthcare worker during a pandemic might be the hardest of all. Follow these seven strategies to help your family cope with coronavirus.
Deborah Swanson is a Coordinator for the Real Caregivers Program at allheart.com, a site dedicated to celebrating medical professionals and their journeys. When she isn’t interviewing caregivers and writing about them, she’s gardening.
Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.