Bulgarian Journal of Psychiatry, 2022; 7(3):38-44

Hotline for citizens and debriefing of medical personnel in the first wave of COVID-19

Milena Dimitrova, Mirena Georgieva, Yoanna Marinova, Dancho Dilkov

Psychiatry Clinic, Military Medical Academy – Sofia

Laboratory for Mental Health and Prevention, Military Medical Academy – Sofia

Abstract. This research presents qualitative and quantitative analysis of the data obtained from debrief- ings of physicians working with coronavirus patients, as well as from anonymous phone calls on the COVID-19 hot-line for citizens across Bulgaria, in the period 28.04.2020-29.05.2020. The telephone calls analysis consists of 705 registered calls and contains demographic data, type of questions and complaints. The results show that more elderly people over the age of 70 living alone, from remote areas of the country and observing strict physical isolation, most often report symptoms of anxiety and panic. The debriefings involved psychologists working with five medical teams (doctors, nurses and orderlies) from two infectious disease clinics at the Military Medical Academy who worked between 5 and 7 days in a closed working cycle with COVID-19 patients. The results show the physicians feel emotionally attached and anxious for their families and loved ones, finding it difficult to overcome the one-week 

isolation in the COVID-19 unit. As a consequence, the working time in the unit was reduced to 2-3 days per team. The opportunity to speak openly about the problems reduced the accumulated mental stress and established the belief that the medical teams were understood and their recommendations for optimizing their work were largely accepted, which led to the establishment of a more efficient work environment.

Key words: hot-line, medical debriefing, anxiety, panic attacks

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