Healthcare workers have been on the frontline for months caring for many of the millions of COVID-19 cases while risking their own lives. They have been called heroes, but according to a recent survey, many of them are feeling unappreciated, depressed, and anxious.
According to Huff Post, a Physicians Foundation survey found that 58% of doctors say they’re experiencing burnout. That’s up 40% from statistics observed two years ago. The survey found that 50% of physicians “have experienced inappropriate anger, tearfulness or anxiety as a result of COVID-19’s effects on their practice or employment.”
Just less than one-third reported feeling hopeless and losing their purpose in medicine, said the survey. Young physicians more frequently said that had thoughts of self-harm compared to older doctors. As a result of these COVID-19 changes in mental resiliency, 18% of physicians “have increased their use of medications, alcohol and illicit drugs.”
According to a tally compiled by Kaiser Health News and The Guardian, close to 1,200 healthcare workers have died in the U.S. as a result of COVID-19. According to Business Insider, nurses on the frontline have expressed concern over their health and safety since they spend much more time with patients than all other healthcare workers. Earlier this month, The Guardian cited dire shortages of protective equipment, under staffing, and an overburdened healthcare system as reasons medical care workers were dying.
“This was an eye opener to me and made me feel like, as a nurse, I wasn’t valued. It’s all about the almighty dollar,” Erin McIntosh, a nurse in Riverside, California told Huff Post. “I have seen so many co-workers fall ill.”
Experts say that the pandemic has exacerbated a mental health crisis among medical workers that already existed. The suicide rate among doctors is double that of the general public. Unfortunately, doctors and nurses are not likely to seek mental health care because of the stigma attached. The Physicians Foundation survey found that only 13% of doctors went for help during the pandemic to deal with mental health issues.
Jessica Gold, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis, called for expert action to intervene on the behalf of healthcare workers.
“Some universities, like the UNC Chapel Hill and the University of California, San Francisco have been leaders in this field, deploying their psychiatric workforce as volunteers,” she wrote, in an opinion piece for Stat News.
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