The CDC warns of a mental health crisis among healthcare professionals

25.10.2023 posted by Admin

Strained sanity. Healthcare workers in crisis

A new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is raising concerns about the mental well-being of healthcare professionals across the nation.

Based on nationwide survey data spanning from 2018 to 2022, the study reveals that in 2022, nearly half of healthcare workers reported feeling exhausted, a significant increase from just under one-third four years earlier. Incidents of harassment at work also more than doubled during this period.

What's striking is that this report shows that healthcare workers are experiencing more severe mental health challenges compared to employees in other industries.

This research emerges in the aftermath of the largest strike by healthcare workers in US history, where 75,000 unionized employees at Kaiser Permanente walked out in five states and the District of Columbia, citing burnout and chronic staff shortages as key concerns.

Dr. Debra Houry, the CDC's chief medical officer, emphasizes the need for action, stating, "While healthcare workers usually care diligently for others during their time of need, it is now our nation's healthcare workers who are suffering, and we must respond."

Even before the pandemic, healthcare jobs were demanding, with long hours, unpredictable schedules, exposure to infectious diseases, and often emotionally challenging interactions with patients and their families.

Previous studies have shown that healthcare workers, particularly nurses, healthcare support staff, and technicians, are at a higher risk of suicide compared to individuals in other professions.

According to Dr. Houry, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated workplace challenges, leading to a surge in mental health problems, suicidal thoughts, and, like a significant portion of the US adult population, substance abuse issues.

The research found an increase in the number of poor mental health days reported by healthcare workers between 2018 and 2022. In the survey, 44% of healthcare workers expressed a desire to find a new job, up from 33% in 2018.

In contrast, the intention to seek new employment among other essential workers decreased during the same period.

Furthermore, the percentage of healthcare workers experiencing harassment, including threats, bullying, and verbal abuse from patients and colleagues, rose from 6% to 13% during the study period.

The CDC report highlights the profound impact of harassment on the mental health of healthcare workers. Those who reported harassment were five times more likely to experience anxiety compared to those who did not. They were over three times more likely to report depression and almost six times more likely to experience burnout.

For example, 85% of healthcare workers who faced harassment reported feeling anxious, compared to 53% of those who did not. Sixty percent of harassment victims reported depression, nearly double the number of healthcare workers who had not experienced harassment.

The report stresses that these consequences are preventable through improved workplace policies and practices.

The study indicates that healthcare workers who had trust in their management, sufficient time to complete their tasks, and support from supervisors were less likely to report burnout.

Employers are urged to take this information seriously and implement preventive measures immediately, as supportive work environments have a positive impact on healthcare workers.

The report also recommends that employers encourage healthcare workers' involvement in decision-making processes, as those who were involved were about half as likely to report depression symptoms. It is advised that supervisors closely monitor staffing needs and address harassment reports seriously.

The CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health plans to launch a national campaign in the coming fall to help hospital leaders address the well-being challenges faced by healthcare workers, as part of an ongoing initiative to raise awareness about their mental health challenges.

In the end, taking action based on the research findings is crucial, as labeling the current situation a "crisis" is an understatement. The well-being of our healthcare workers is vital for the betterment of our communities and all of us.
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