Clinicians are facing unprecedented levels of extreme stress during the pandemic. But what can we learn from past traumatic events and how this be applied to safeguard the mental wellbeing of clinical staff?
Clinicians and caregivers are facing unprecedented levels of extreme emotional stressors during the pandemic with moral injuries triggering acute levels of staff burnout. Phil Taylor and Dr. Timothy McDonald discuss what we can learn from past traumatic events and how they can be applied to healthcare to help safeguard the mental wellbeing of clinical staff during COVID-19 and beyond.
Staff burnout has long been an issue in healthcare and is now being exacerbated by the pandemic. Clinicians are seeing patients die, having to make heart-breaking decisions about who to treat, coping with lack of resources, shortages of ICU units and oxygen supplies, fearful of contracting the virus and infecting family, working long hours and treating extremely poorly patients. This is leading to increased depression, posttraumatic stress disorder and even suicides.
Staff are suffering from significant ‘moral injuries’ which, if left untreated, may threaten the long-term capacity of the healthcare service. Research indicates that while, for many people, symptoms of PTSD resolve within several weeks, between 10% and 20% of individuals exposed to trauma experience PTSD symptoms that persist and are associated with impairment. In military populations the rate for lifetime symptoms is estimated at about 8%,1 a significant figure.
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