Healthcare Conditions Can Impact Healthcare Workers’ Wellbeing

Our medical professionals are under incredible pressure to treat patient illness and injury, save lives, and make groundbreaking medical discoveries, all while maintaining poise and confidence. Unfortunately, this pressure can build and become unsustainable. The stress our medical professionals experience daily compounds over time and can manifest in physical and mental health impairments. It can be so severe that it becomes necessary to take a leave of absence from the practice of medicine. 

Medical professionals face unique occupational hazards. Being aware of these risks and potential consequences can prompt physicians to seek treatment as soon as possible, and to plan in advance for career disruptions due to impairment. Unfortunately, some medical care providers may never be able to return to the medical profession due to disabling conditions. 

Challenges in the Workplace Contribute to Physician Illness 

Occupational stress can contribute to a decline in mental health. Caring for patients while meeting or exceeding healthcare standards can take psychological toll on doctors and nurses. Occupational stress can increase to the point of becoming unsafe for a doctor to practice medicine due to impaired judgment and lack of focus and concentration. Moreover, stressful work environments can contribute to physiological impairments as well. 

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a long-term condition that is increasingly prevalent among our medical care providers. With the additional physical and mental strain of the pandemic, more doctors find themselves at risk. Chronic fatigue syndrome is not simply a matter of being overworked and tired, but it causes significant impairment to the cognitive, emotional, and physical abilities required to practice medicine.

High-stress careers such as those in the medical field can lead to serious medical impairments. For instance, a high-stress working environment can lead to complications in cardiovascular health. High blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke can be devastating to a medical career. Peripheral artery disease also affects many medical professionals. It can lead to limited mobility, chronic pain, and amputation..

Occupational Risks in the Medical Profession

The challenges of the medical workplace create additional risks to the health and wellbeing of healthcare workers. For example, OSHA found hospitals to have twice as many workplace illnesses and injuries as the private sector. In addition to the increased risk of challenges such as workplace violence, medical professionals are at increased risk for exposure to illness. The medical profession also experiences a higher rate of workplace accidents. For example, the World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 10 medical professionals is injured in a sharps accident, posing a risk for infection.

Physicians are also susceptible to additional physical injury because of the nature of the work. Physicians work long shifts on their feet with causing physical strain to the body, including the back, neck, arms, and legs. Long surgeries, manipulating instruments, and maneuvering patients can contribute to surgeon hand and wrist injuries.

There are also risks associated with diagnostic testing in the medical field, and healthcare workers put themselves at risk in order to properly diagnose and treat patients. For example, prolonged exposure to radiation or chemicals can increase a physician’s probability of getting cancer. In addition, laboratory conditions can impair breathing or result in lung conditions and respiratory disorders due to the contaminants medical researchers are exposed to.

COVID Affects Healthcare Professionals

As the Covid pandemic continues, the stress on our healthcare system is evident. Doctors and nurses face a higher rate of burnout than in previous years. Hospitals and clinics become desperate for space to treat patients. Medical supplies become scarce during times of pandemic surges. As the uncertainty of the pandemic continues, more medical professionals have been leaving the profession. This leaves the remaining physicians to cope with the stress of the shortages.

A recent study found that 50% of physicians have felt anger and anxiety regarding Covid, and 30% feel hopeless in the medical profession due to the pandemic. Without help from our medical professionals, the future of our healthcare system is in peril.

Mental Health Stigma Prevents Doctors From Seeking Treatment

Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and behavioral disorders are just a few of the psychological impairments that affect our medical professionals. These conditions need to be taken seriously and appropriately treated, though many doctors and nurses will forgo treatment due to the stigma associated with mental health conditions. 

Even with a greater present understanding of mental illnesses and available treatments, many physicians still feel a sense of stigma when considering mental health treatment for themselves. Physicians fear issues with licensing boards, credential boards, employment discrimination, and a lack of trust from others that would preclude them from employment and serving patients. 

By suffering silently from mental illness, doctors increase the probability of mistakes leading to patient harm, accidents, and malpractice. Possibly contributing to an error where the consequences can be life-threatening can cause doctors to fall into a deeper personal crisis. This is a vicious cycle that we need to break in the medical community so that our medical professionals can provide the best care possible.

Disability Insurance for Doctors

Doctors and other medical professionals can seek financial protection by purchasing individual disability insurance policies. When a policyholder cannot work due to a disabling condition, these policies provide a monthly income stream. This will allow you and your family to continue paying bills and expenses while you are out of work.

Caring For the Health of Our Medical Professionals 

There are things the medical community can do to support the health and well-being of our medical professionals.

Making protective medical wear and equipment readily available to healthcare facilities can reduce the spread of illness by preventing exposure to pathogens and contagious disease. While this is easier said than done, especially during a pandemic, a focus on providing appropriate protective equipment will not only shield our doctors from infection but prevent the spread of disease from patient to patient in close quarters. The healthcare system must address the danger of physical injury to doctors and nurses in the workplace. Furthermore, we must address the stigma surrounding mental illness so medical professionals feel comfortable reaching out for help and treatment.

Together, we can care for the health of our medical professionals. After all, they have dedicated their careers to caring for our communities.