According to the US Department of Labor, Labor Day “constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” And during the middle of a pandemic, it’s more important than ever to recognize how healthcare workers across the nation have and continue to contribute to the well-being of our country.
Those Lost & Continuous PPE Shortages
Lost on the Frontline, an ongoing investigation by The Guardian and Kaiser Health News has identified nearly 1,100 US healthcare workers—many of whom were people of color or immigrants—that have died of COVID-19. Nearly one in five workers in the US healthcare system are immigrants who often work in the most vulnerable communities.
Lost on the Frontline also reported that shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies is a continuous struggle, and one that could persist through 2022. These shortages are causing additional concerns as fears are rising due to the approaching flu season and as reinfections are beginning to be reported.
The Pandemic’s Mental Health Toll
Americans from all walks of life are experiencing negative effects on their mental health, but the uncertainty, stress, and trauma of the pandemic weighs heaviest on those on the frontlines. Uncontrolled stress without the support and resources to address it leads to burnout—characterized by exhaustion, depersonalization, and low self-efficacy.
This burnout also affects patient care due to increased medical errors, turnover, and reduced clinical hours. Burnout, coupled with the trauma frontline workers are witnessing, can become unmanageable.
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Now, perhaps more than ever, is a critical time to provide additional resources to support the mental health of care team members. Every year, approximately 400 physicians die by suicide in the US. The widely reported suicide of a New York physician on the frontlines goes to show how COVID-19 is magnifying the mental health concerns clinicians are already facing.
Steps for Supporting the Mental Health of Providers
As reported in Becker’s Hospital Review, hospitals are offering mindfulness practice sessions, programs to support workers caring for trauma patients, 24/7 support lines, and more. Hospitals and health systems are also preparing to support healthcare workers as the pandemic continues and as we move towards a post-pandemic world using things like online symptom trackers.
Becker’s Hospital Review has also provided seven ways healthcare leaders can support their teams:
- Help them regain joy in work
- Articulate a constancy of purpose
- Help enhance workers’ resilience
- Reinforce team support
- Provide psychological safety
- Celebrate the successes
- Take care of yourself (because leaders can’t pour from an empty cup)
Additionally, the American Nurses Association and Emergency Nurses Association, ACEP, the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, and the National Academy of Medicine have all provided resources for nurses, physicians, and other care team members.
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