YNS COVID-19 Resilience

The coronavirus-19 disease (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in our global medical community facing unprecedented times. As we navigated through the unknown terrain of the first wave, it profoundly taxed the resources of healthcare systems worldwide, including all medical professionals at the center of those systems fighting an invisible enemy. With little time to come up for air, we are now struck by a second wave which is taking a further toll on an already fatigued workforce. As a result, neurosurgeons facing the repercussions of COVID-19 are called upon to display an extraordinary degree of resilience.

Resilience is the ability to adapt positively to life conditions, and may also be defined as the ability to, “bounce back from hardship and trauma;” the American Psychological Association defines resilience as, “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of threat”.1,4 Resilience can be viewed as a multifactorial and continually evolving construct that, among physicians, does not appear to be directly related to any particular demographic variables.3 It is encouraging to note that modifiable factors can influence the ability to develop resilience, and literature supports the notion that it can be developed over time via behavioral modifications.2,4

Our recent publication in World Neurosurgery aims at supporting our neurosurgical community during a time of concern about what the future holds with regard to the impact of COVID-19 on neurosurgery training and clinical practice. As the impending risk of  neurosurgeon burn-out levels reaches an all-time high, it is critical to encourage self-care within our workforce. Our article offers evidence-based recommendations and a recommended reading list, all aimed at fostering resilience during, and beyond, the COVID-19 pandemic. The first of these lists, highlighting recommendations from the American Psychological Association, appears below.

Table 1. Recommendations from the American Psychological Association:
  1. Build your connections
    1. Prioritize relationships
    2. Join a group
  2. Foster wellness
    1. Take care of your body
    2. Practice mindfulness
    3. Avoid negative outlets
  3. Find purpose
    1. Help others
    2. Be proactive
    3. Move toward your goals
    4. Look for opportunities for self-discovery
  4. Embrace healthy thoughts:
    1. Keep things in perspective
    2. Accept change
    3. Maintain a hopeful outlook
    4. Learn from your past

Table 1: From the article- Recommendations from the American Psychological Association

  1. American Psychological A: Building your resilience. Washington, DC, 2020
  2. Jeste DV, Lee EE: Emerging empirical science of wisdom: definition, measurement, neurobiology, longevity, and interventions. Harvard review of psychiatry 27:127, 2019
  3. McKinley N, Karayiannis PN, Convie L, Clarke M, Kirk SJ, Campbell WJ: Resilience in medical doctors: a systematic review. Postgraduate medical journal 95:140-147, 2019
  4. Southwick SM, Charney DS: The science of resilience: implications for the prevention and treatment of depression. Science 338:79-82, 2012
February 2024