Share on PinterestA burned out workforce and overwhelmed healthcare system could spell lasting trouble for nations. MoMo Productions/Getty Images
- Mental health professionals weigh in on the tremendous toll the pandemic has had on the healthcare workforce, and what that might mean for our future.
- Women in this field who were under age 60 and worked more than 40 hours a week were more likely to experience mental health symptoms, a study finds.
- One psychologist said the world is at a critical point to address the mental health pandemic unfolding in the traumatized workforce.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on the mental and physical health of physicians, nurses, and other healthcare workers around the world.
As many as 1 in 4 medical doctors in Italy have experienced symptoms of anxiety and 1 in 5 have reported depression both in June and December 2020, according to a recent study.
Being female, younger than 60 years old, and working over 40 hours a week also made it more likely for doctors to experience anxiety and depression or report mental health symptoms.
These statistics are just a small peek at the toll that COVID-19 has taken on the mental health of healthcare workers around the world.
Steven C. Hayes, foundation professor of psychology at the University of Nevada, and originator of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), said the world is at a critical point to address the mental health pandemic unfolding in the traumatized workforce.
“I think if we mishandle this moment, we will face years of trouble going forward in dealing with many sectors of our society who have been asked to do more and more but without necessarily being given the psychological tools to do it in a healthy way,” he told Healthline.
Anxiety, depression, mood changes, and social withdrawal are among the many mental health symptoms healthcare professionals have experienced over the pandemic.
Dr. Wizdom Powell, director of the Health Disparities Institute at the University of Connecticut and associate professor of psychiatry said anxiety would be at the top of the symptoms list, followed by fear, worry, and the feeling of being on edge.
“We’re also seeing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-like symptoms and also depression because those emotions kind of interlace one another. As a psychologist, I see a newer form of depression presented in the clinic: depression mixed with some anxiety,” Powell said.
Powell said asking healthcare workers to look past their own or families’ needs during the pandemic was a tremendous burden, and this has led her to observe firsthand a different type of burnout.
“The disconnection from the day-to-day work, the sense of watching your body from the outside and watching it all take place… [W]hat I’m observing is them feeling a little bit frayed at the edges, while at the same time so motivated to stay in the firefight,” she said.
Meanwhile, Hayes highlighted the challenges of dealing with people who may be confrontational.
“If you have a person screaming at you that they’re not going to wear a mask, nobody is going to be filled with positive emotions …….