The Unique Challenges Healthcare Professionals Face
According to the Mental Health America study The Mental Health of Healthcare Workers in COVID-19, 76% of healthcare workers reported burnout and exhaustion in 2020. Meanwhile, 82% admitted to emotional exhaustion. However, nearly half of the nurses surveyed reported they were not receiving adequate emotional support.
In addition, according to a March 2021 global survey of healthcare professionals’ emotional health, 22% of healthcare professionals reported experiencing moderate depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Another survey of more than 26,000 state and local public healthcare professionals found that more than half of respondents reported symptoms of at least one mental health disorder in the prior two weeks.
In late 2021, Congress passed the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act. This Act provided $135 million for programs aimed at supporting the mental health and well-being of health workers. Enacted in March 2022, it represents a strong first step in getting healthcare professionals the treatments they need.
Among the common mental health disorders that healthcare professionals face:
Burnout is the feeling of prolonged stress in the workplace. This feeling is especially prevalent in helping professions like social work, education, and medicine. Healthcare professionals report fatigue and physical exhaustion after spending multiple hours tending to the needs of others. Burnout is also characterized by frustration and feelings of disconnection toward one’s work as well as reduced productivity at work, home, or both.
Burnout among healthcare professionals is not only personally unhealthy, but it can also be dangerous, as professional burnout has been linked to difficulty concentrating at work, hostile attitudes towards patients, and difficulties regarding coworker relationships.
Depression is a major risk factor for those in the healthcare profession. A survey published by the International Journey of Nursing Studies suggested that more than 30% of healthcare workers likely meet the diagnostic criteria for clinical depression.
Physical symptoms of depression can include fatigue, a lack of energy, changes in sleeping and eating habits, weight loss or weight gain, and slowed physical responses. Ongoing or major depression can lead to feelings of hopelessness, despair, and suicidal ideation.
It should come as no surprise that healthcare work is stressful work, particularly healthcare work conducted in recent years. In fact, a January 2022 survey of nurses during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic reported approximately 29% of nurses experienced symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety is the feeling of fear, dread, or uneasiness. Its physical symptoms include excessive sweating, restlessness, and rapid heartbeat. Anxiety can be a normal reaction to stress, and it can also offer a temporary increase of energy and focus. However, facing a high level of stress every day can result in anxiety symptoms that never go away and can get worse over time. In this way, anxiety interferes with job performance or personal relationships.
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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (and Vicarious Trauma)
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD for short, can affect anyone, though its prevalence among those in lifesaving fields—like healthcare—is extremely high. In fact, the rate of PTSD among healthcare professionals was just over 39%, according to a September 2022 survey published by the National Institutes of Health.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder affecting people exposed to a traumatic event. Such events include acts of physical or sexual violence or life-threatening experiences like natural disasters or war. Those with PTSD tend to relive their trauma and can be triggered by a sight or sound or witnessing a similar traumatic event.
When talking about PTSD among healthcare workers, vicarious trauma ought to be mentioned. First identified in the 1980s and labeled the “cost of caring,” vicarious trauma is also sometimes referred to as “compassion fatigue.” Vicarious trauma is the emotional residue of exposure to traumatic stories or the witnessing of fear, pain, and terror, among others.
Symptoms of vicarious trauma are much like those of PTSD: reexperiencing the traumatic events, along with feelings of numbness, avoidance, and persistent arousal.
The Negative Stigma of Mental Health Assistance Among Healthcare Professionals
The prevalence of mental health disorders among healthcare professionals in the U.S. remains frustratingly persistent. This is due in part to the negative stigma surrounding the need for professional mental health treatment.
A September 2022 survey by The Physicians Foundation found that 80% of physicians claim there is stigma around doctors seeking mental health treatment. In fact, almost 40% reported that either they or a colleague they know has felt scared to seek mental health treatment because that treatment would need to be disclosed on their licensure, credentialing, or insurance applications. This, despite 60% of physicians reporting feelings of anger, anxiety, or tearfulness in the previous year.
What is Mental Health Treatment for Healthcare Professionals?
As accustomed as healthcare professionals may be to the demands of their work, and as much as they have cultivated a self-image of efficiency and competence in the face of chaos, the stressors of their work can grow overwhelming. In other words, when one’s various forms of self-care and stress relief aren’t enough, comprehensive mental health treatment for healthcare professionals can be a godsend.
The mental health treatment programs at the Neuroscience Institute are specifically designed to address the unique mental health needs of healthcare professionals. Our team of professionals is only too familiar with healthcare work. After all, it’s what they do. In addition, we provide professional support that prioritizes privacy and individuality.
What to Expect with Mental Health Treatment for Healthcare Professionals
During mental health treatment for healthcare professionals at Neuroscience Institute, one’s personal needs and recovery goals remain the top priority. Our treatment begins with an initial evaluation, where we examine the client’s mental health history alongside their current professional circumstances. This is also where chronic physical conditions, health risk factors, and genetic predispositions are considered.
Following evaluation and approval, clients begin their mental health counseling programs. Whether they enter residential mental health treatment or our intensive outpatient program (IOP), we can adjust our treatment accordingly. Once treatment has started, clients undergo evidence-based therapies in individual or group settings.