This article outlines lessons from the authors’ experiences as Western practitioners working in resource-denied settings to inform the response to COVID-19 for frontline healthcare workers in high-income countries, who are typically unaccustomed to vulnerability and resource scarcity at a national level.
The six lessons described are:
- “What flexibility really means”
- “Find expertise in places you may not have thought to look before”
- “Blend interpersonal relationships and work; adapt your perception of time”
- “Use challenging situations as opportunities to advocate”
- “Being a HCW when resources are scarce is traumatic”
- “Accept some realities you cannot change and look back the right way.”
The authors emphasize the importance of adapting practice to dynamically changing situations and acknowledging that existing approaches may not be effective or appropriate to the current circumstances. They note the importance of recognizing the relevance of approaches from the global South to resource scarcity, such as creative means of reusing or making PPE, sterilizing limited resources, or treatment modalities that bypass costly medications. They also look to these other cultures for the concept of polychronic time and adaptation to uncertainty and unexpected challenges. Additionally, the authors stress the importance of advocacy on behalf of vulnerable patients and communities, as well as the need for healthcare workers to protect their own mental and physical health.