September 9, 2020
Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, essential workers—especially those treating coronavirus patients—are facing intense mental and emotional stress. Employers have an unprecedented opportunity to address systemic issues that lead to poor mental health among medical professionals.
A Mental Health Pandemic
It is no secret that healthcare workers are facing a malady of their own: rapidly decaying mental health.
A Texas A&M University study found that “doctors and nurses across the country are experiencing occupational burnout and fatigue from the increased stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.” As medical professionals endure loss of life, lack of protective equipment, and uncertainty about the economy, their mental health suffers.
Across the Atlantic, Britain’s National Health Service launched a mental health hotline for professionals struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic. It received nearly 60,000 calls in a mere three weeks. Meanwhile, the NHS is experiencing a dangerous shortage of workers.
To uplift their healthcare workers, individual citizens and entire cities are finding ways to creatively express gratitude. In March, citizens of Rome decorated their apartments with Italian flags, rang bells, and applauded from their balconies to pay tribute to Italy’s healthcare workers. For much of early April, residents of New York City made an evening ritual out of cheering for healthcare workers from their apartments.
Are medical professionals experiencing the same level of care from their employers?
Firms Must Lead
Executives in the healthcare industry must be proactive in addressing the mental health pandemic among their employees.
Dr. Randall Levin, chair of the American College of Emergency Physicians’ Wellness Leadership Team, told Qlicket that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the medical industry’s failure to address toxic work environments that see employees as “replaceable collateral damage.”
Indeed, leaders must address the systemic and environmental issues that lead to mental health issues among medical professionals. As Dr. Levin explains, “healthy hospital systems need healthy physicians, and healthy physicians require healthy hospital systems.”
Referring to “physicians” as all professionals involved in the medical value chain, Dr. Levin believes that “supporting physician wellness allows physicians and healthcare teams to function at the peak of their credentials, offering true care and positive patient outcomes.”
On a practical level, companies ought to foster an “environment removed from the stigma of mental health concerns.”
Some particularly successful systems “have taken on the responsibility for the well-being of the staff, through flexible hours… or improving patient flow through their facilities,” says Dr. Levin.
Following in the footsteps of grateful citizens, the medical industry can uplift physicians’ mental health needs with creative benefits. These could include the celebration of discharged patients, food support, sleep rooms, or offerings of special discounts for buying essentials. Firms could also sponsor rooms at hotels, which would allow clinicians to avoid potentially exposing their families to coronavirus.
Data support the idea that medical firms have much ground to cover. The Brookings Institute finds that workplace conditions are taking their toll on the “underpaid, undervalued, and essential” health care workforce—a workforce of seven million people.
Qlicket is eager to support medical firms in their efforts to identify and address prevalent mental health issues. Learn more about our solution and how it can provide your organization with insights about employee morale.