The health of our health care workers needs attention


MOST PEOPLE want to help during a medical emergency. But not everyone has the ability to calm their breathing, steel their nerves, set aside their emotions, and focus on the crisis at hand. Very few people can truly understand what it takes to save another person’s life.

Healthcare workers do.

Doctors, nurses, ER staff, and all of Boston’s world-class medical personnel serve and save while bearing witness to the fragility of life daily. They quickly absorb, filter out, and react to the most tragic and visceral scenes imaginable. And they do it on repeat, because there will always be another car accident, another shooting, another tragic childhood illness.

Healthcare providers deal with an enormous amount of mental and physical stress throughout their career. They carry this burden silently. Experiences and images stay rooted in the mind and take a toll. Trouble sleeping, appetite changes, emotional numbness, and physical exhaustion are baseline.

Overall, compared to the general population, emergency responders experience higher rates of depression, post-traumatic stress, burnout, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Healthcare workers, like all first responders, have devoted their lives to helping others but too often they forget to help themselves. For example, about 68 percent of nurses have reported that they put the health, safety, and wellness of their patients before their own needs. And it is well documented that emotional stress, burnout, and post-traumatic stress are becoming increasingly common amongst all healthcare personnel. Unfortunately, this also means suicide rates are also climbing. The industry itself suffers as healthcare worker retention issues impact already strapped hospital systems.

Read the full article in CommonWealth Magazine