Ten Eleven Things Not to Say to Healthcare Professionals During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic

Jennifer Robblee, Dawn C. Buse, Rashmi B. Halker Singh, Courtney M. Schusse, Nina Riggins, Melissa L. Rayhill, Elizabeth W. Loder, Megan Donnelly, Clarimar Borrero-Mejias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


On March 11, 2020, the infection caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus was declared a pandemic. Throughout this pandemic, healthcare professionals (HCPs) have experienced difficulties stemming from poor communications, resource scarcity, lack of transparency, disbelief, and threats to the safety of their loved ones, their patients, and themselves. As part of these hardships, negative statements have been heard repeatedly. This paper describes 11 scenarios of unhelpful and dysfunctional messages heard by the authors and their colleagues during the COVID-19 pandemic, reported to us by a combination of peers, administrative leadership, and the public. We explain why not to use such messaging, and we suggest more helpful and compassionate expressions based upon recommendations published by scientific organizations and well-established psychological principles. The first 10 scenarios discussed include (1) lack of understanding regarding the extent of the pandemic; (2) shaming over not seeing patients in person; (3) lack of clear and consistent communication from leadership on pandemic-related practice changes; (4) opinions that personal protective equipment (PPE) use by HCPs causes fear or is unnecessary; (5) forcing in-person care without appropriate PPE; (6) the risk of exposure to asymptomatic individuals as it relates to opening clinics; (7) media gag orders; (8) pay and benefit reductions; (9) spreading of misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic; and (10) workload expectations. The 11th scenario addresses HCPs’ psychological and physical reactions to this challenging and prolonged stressful situation. We close by discussing the need for support and compassion at this difficult and unpredictable time and by offering suggestions to foster resilience and feelings of self-efficacy among HCPs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1837-1845
Number of pages9
Issue number8
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • advocacy
  • coronavirus disease 2019
  • pandemic
  • personal protective equipment
  • professionalism
  • public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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