3rd Place - How Has 2020 Changed Attitudes Towards Medicine?
By Smruti Balaji - Year 12, Abbey School, Reading
The year 2020 was engulfed by the global pandemic, testing healthcare systems and outlining the importance of each different role within the profession as a whole. Closed-minded attitudes were forced to change, as leading heroes within the pandemic were no longer just doctors. (Thobaity , 2020) Additionally, the effects of research and treatments for other leading illnesses being put aside due to the virus were showcased. Through this, the subjective attitude towards medicine, due to different perspectives and personal experiences, were highlighted.
When someone mentions the medical profession, the usual associations are with GPs, consultants and surgeons, however, the pandemic has undoubtedly shone a long-deserving light on researchers, nurses, and other roles. This has made people realise the importance of the NHS and other healthcare teams worldwide, serving as multi-disciplinary workforces. The production of various Covid-19 vaccinations has drawn attention to previously undervalued professions within the medical industry. The collaborative efforts between scientific research and pharmaceutical sectors have been outlined, with their rapid production of vaccines under time constraints, as well as pressure from organisations, governments, and the worldwide population. (Fetler , 2021) (BMJ, 2021) Typically, vaccinations take ten to fifteen years to be produced. However, amidst the pandemic, researchers played a crucial role in accelerating the process by carrying out stages of development simultaneously and by exploring new vaccine technologies. This resulted in some of the leading vaccines, AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech, being produced in less than a year. (Morerira & Martin , 2020) The global efforts of scientific researchers are finally starting to be noticed. 2020 reinforced the fact that there is more to medicine beyond just those working on the frontline. With an increase in demand for responses to mental health requirements during the pandemic, the significance of psychiatrists and psychologists was brought to attention. (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2020) Furthermore, the wider view surrounding mental health was extended to consider medicine to be holistic rather than merely physical. With lockdown and the confinement of those to their homes, people were more likely to address the existence of mental health as a prominent part of medicine as a whole, with the media showcasing non- medicinal solutions such as the importance of getting fresh air and socialisation, which health experts said could have various positive effects on one’s mental health. (Aldao, 2020) (Mind, 2020) (NHS Confederation , 2020) The increase in the need for psychological responses therefore shifted people’s attitudes to become more open-minded to the fact that medicine can be more than just a physical issue that needs to be resolved with a medicinal solution. (Roy, 2020) (Telegraph, 2021)
In the same way, nurses, who constitute the majority of healthcare providers, are on the frontline and are responsible for providing holistic care for every patient. The greater public’s deeper understanding of nurses’ critical function within healthcare systems has stemmed from the global spread of the virus. (GOV.UK, 2020) The pandemic has exposed the world to the pressure faced by nurses working in this crisis, as well as the harsh reality of shortages of staff, resulting in the exhaustion of nurses, and a lack of medical supplies and personal protective equipment for frontline workers. The pandemic has played a role in emphasising the level of hard work within the role of nursing. With 2020’s constant headlines and news reports of nurses juggling their tasks from detecting suspected Covid-19 cases and helping in decontamination with other healthcare providers, to supplying holistic care, (BBC News , 2020) there has been a realisation that nurses are underestimated and deserving of a higher salary with considerations to their workload. (Thobaity , 2020) Appreciation towards the multi-disciplinary workforce was exhibited in 2020, on a worldwide level, from England taking part in clapping for the NHS weekly, to the Indian armed forces showering decorations in hospitals to thank all of the front-line workers. (ABC News, 2020) As much as this recognition of nurses in 2020 is a step in the right direction, the salary of nurses remains unsatisfactory. With people’s attitudes having changed greatly in the past year, they will be more likely to understand and support matters such as the nursing strikes, and petitions, as they are more aware of the effect which nurses have had within the healthcare system.
In 2020, the focal point within the medical industry was inevitably shifted on to Covid-19, resulting in other leading illnesses being temporarily overlooked. Firstly, this resulted in detrimental outcomes for certain patients with ongoing illnesses who could not be given the same amount of attention that they otherwise would have received. (World Heart Federation, 2020) Additionally, this pressurised staff even further because of the lack of resources in hospitals to cater for everyone, as patients with Covid-19, were a priority. Lastly, further progress of new cures and medicines would have been put to a halt, to prioritise the virus and the production of the vaccine, slowing the medical industry down from advancing and progressing with new innovations and cures for other diseases or illnesses. From this, it can be said that attitudes towards medicine resulting from 2020, will be very different in the eyes
of different people who have had different experiences in the past year. The majority of clinical trials and laboratories for illnesses such as lung cancer and Parkinson's were forced to close, resulting in millions of people having to temporarily put their lives on hold because of the pandemic. In addition, those with advanced cancer or those needing major operations, would have been more vulnerable to infection, and trips to the clinic for treatments would have been very risky, as patients could potentially be exposed to the virus, and so their treatments would be delayed. (Ledford, 2020) Those with similar experiences to this will have more negative attitudes towards the medical industry, because although this was a necessary protocol, it may have sparked outrage and questions about the medical industry not being prepared and equipped enough to balance both the virus and other leading illnesses. On the other hand, some may have appreciated the fact that the primary focus of the research was on the vaccine and Covid-19 related treatments, as this would mean a greater chance of finding a solution and minimising the global suffering. Also, some people may believe that 2020 has showcased how healthcare systems were simply overloaded, and thus are more sensitive and appreciative towards people working within the profession. These different views on the situation outline the fact that attitudes towards medicine will be dependent on people’s perspectives, formed by their personal experiences.
In conclusion, 2020 and the global pandemic have had a huge impact on how medicine is perceived today, with healthcare being viewed as more than just front-line workers, and with medicine being holistic, rather than solely a physical problem only needing a medicinal solution. 2020’s detrimental effects have also been exposed to those with ongoing illnesses who were negatively impacted by the virus in different ways. All in all, people’s attitudes towards medicine were forced to change due to the circumstances, and in the volatile world of medicine, these attitudes will be ever-changing.
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