Burnout and Harassment – Troubling Stats In a comprehensive study spanning from 2018 to 2022, startling revelations emerged as nearly 50% of health workers admitted to feeling exhausted by 2022, a marked rise from just one-third in 2018. Disturbingly, accounts of workplace harassment have seen a more than twofold surge.
Health Sector vs. Other Industries These insights, unveiled on Tuesday, distinctly show health professionals grappling with mental health challenges more than counterparts in other sectors. This disclosure follows closely on the heels of an unprecedented strike involving 75,000 health care employees from Kaiser Permanente, who protested against pervasive burnout and chronic understaffing.
A Plea for Recognizing Their Plight Emphasizing the gravity of the situation, Dr. Debra Houry, the CDC’s Chief Medical Officer, remarked, “While health workers have always stood at the forefront of patient care, they are now the ones desperately needing support.” Before the pandemic, health professionals were already navigating the high seas of extensive working hours, exposure to ailments, and often taxing patient interactions.
The Toll on Mental Well-being Highlighting the profound emotional impact of their profession, Houry shared personal experiences, such as the heartbreak of breaking terminal illness news or the trauma of failing to save young lives. “Balancing traumatic professional experiences while caring for our families is a challenging act that often means sidelining our own well-being,” she admitted.
The COVID-19 pandemic further aggravated the scenario, with healthcare workers battling surges in patient numbers, extended shifts, and essential supply scarcities. This period saw a concerning rise in mental health issues, increasing thoughts of self-harm, and surges in substance abuse.
From 2018 to 2022, 44% of health workers considered switching jobs, an increase from 33% in 2018. Conversely, intentions of switching professions among other essential workers saw a decline.
Workplace Challenges A worrying insight from the study showed the percentage of healthcare professionals facing workplace harassment, encompassing threats, bullying, and verbal abuse, soaring from 6% to 13%. Harassment was identified as a significant stressor, with victims showing elevated levels of anxiety, depression, and burnout.
However, a silver lining exists: better workplace protocols and practices can alleviate these issues. Trust in management, sufficient task completion time, and supervisory support are linked to reduced burnout instances.
CDC’s Recommendations and Way Forward Casey Chosewood, the director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Office for Total Worker Health, advocated for employers to integrate these insights into immediate corrective measures. Encouraging health workers’ involvement in decision-making can halve depression symptom reports.
With plans to initiate a nationwide campaign this autumn, the CDC aims to equip hospital leaders in addressing healthcare workers’ well-being challenges.
Concluding his statement, Chosewood emphasized, “Our response to this escalating crisis cannot be understated. A thriving healthcare workforce is crucial for community well-being.”