CLINICIAN WELLBEING DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
A guide for addiction treatment clinicians and programs working to treat patients with substance use disorders safely and effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic1.
For additional recommendations for the Ongoing Management of the Continuum of Addiction Care during COVID-19, please click here.
Purpose of the document
Like many clinicians, those that treat addiction have been under tremendous stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are often serving a patient population at increased risk for contracting the coronavirus and for severe COVID-19 illness, including patients with justice-system involvement and those who are unhoused. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic is superimposed on an ongoing epidemic of drug overdose deaths. Clinicians are trying to balance the risks of two potentially deadly diseases, often forced to make complex medical decisions with potential life and death consequences without sufficient information.
While critically important, the rapid adaptations needed to ensure continued access to treatment have also added to the stress. The transition to telehealth has made a tremendous impact on access to care, but it has not been simple or easy to adapt practices to this model. In addition, residential and inpatient programs (ASAM Levels 3 and 4), have struggled to continue to provide care while managing risks for COVID-19 transmission. Many programs put a hold on accepting new patients and others closed. As a result, many clinicians are working longer hours, worried about their patients, their staff and/or living with uncertainty around what comes next.
In addition, clinicians experience the same stresses and anxieties that are affecting much of society. They are worried about their own risks for severe illness or potentially bringing the virus home to their families and others in their lives. Many are coping with childcare, home schooling issues, elderly parents in nursing homes, or the effects of social isolation. The social unrest happening across the country has exposed the stress already felt by some on a regular basis. Clinicians operating with reduced internal and external supports are at risk for burnout, which can have significant detrimental effects on the individual clinician’s wellbeing and their ability to provide effective patient care. It is essential that clinicians, treatment facilities, programs and healthcare systems take steps to protect clinician wellbeing during this public health crisis and beyond.
Clinician Wellbeing During the Covid-19 Pandemic
1This resource was developed by a Task Force appointed by ASAM’s Executive Council. To enable more rapid development and dissemination it was not developed through ASAM’s normal process for clinical guidance development that is overseen by the ASAM Quality Improvement Council.
This Clinical Guidance (“Guidance”) is provided for informational and educational purposes only. It is intended to provide practical clinical guidance to ad- diction medicine physicians and others caring for individuals with substance use disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic as it unfolds. Adherence to any recommendations included in this Guidance will not ensure successful treatment in every situation. Furthermore, the recommendations contained in this Guidance should not be interpreted as setting a standard of care or be deemed inclusive of all proper methods of care nor exclusive of other methods of care reasonably directed to obtaining the same results.
The ultimate judgment regarding the propriety of any specific therapy must be made by the physician and the patient in light of all the circumstances pre- sented by the individual patient, and the known variability and biological behavior of the medical condition.
This Guidance and its conclusions and recommendations reflect the best available information at the time the Guidance was prepared. The results of future studies may require revisions to the recommendations in this Guidance to reflect new data. ASAM does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of the Guidance and assumes no responsibility for any injury or damage to persons or property arising out of or related to any use of this Guidance or for any errors or omissions.
If you are a patient or family member or friend in need of immediate assistance:
- Disaster Distress Helpline
Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 800-273-8255 or Chat with Lifeline
About COVID-19 Taskforce Members
If you have questions related to the guidance in this document or suggestions for additional topics, please email COVID@asam.org