Frontline Healthcare Workers’ Mental Health Took Hit During Pandemic

A whopping 62% of healthcare workers surveyed said that the worry and stress related to battling on the front lines of COVID-19 negatively affected their mental health.

According to The Washington Post, the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll also found that 55% experienced “burn out” going to work. Nearly half of the healthcare workers said that worry and stress affected their ability to sleep.

The nationwide poll of more than 1,300 healthcare workers said that their biggest fear was getting infected themselves or transmitting the disease to family members or patients. About 22% admitted that this concern was the hardest part of their doing their job during the pandemic. Another 16% said that donning personal protective equipment (PPE) was challenging because of the discomfort and overheating of wearing masks all day.

The new rules and safety protocols instituted at work because of COVID-19 proved to be difficult for 8% of the polled healthcare workers, with many citing the frustration of implementing them personally and getting patients to follow suit, according to the Post.

Another 7% said that the long hours and overtime lead to exhaustion as they covered for sick co-workers, dealt with limited resources, and had to care for dying patients.

The new poll cements previous data on the toll COVID-19 has inflicted on the medical profession.

A survey published last year by the Physicians Foundation found that 58% of doctors said they’ve experienced burnout. The review 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.”

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.

Interestingly, The Post-KFF poll found that younger healthcare workers were more severely affected by the pandemic. A full 75% of those under the age of 30 said that worry and stress affected their mental wellbeing, while 71% of those in their 30’s reported the same reaction. Only 40% of healthcare workers aged 65 and older said they were similarly affected.

The worrisome part of these findings is that burnout in healthcare workers leads to increased risk to patients, malpractice claims, worker turnover, as well as billions of dollars lost in the medical field annually, according to the Post.

On the other hand, the poll found that a full 76% of healthcare workers now feel “hopeful” going to work, 67% said they are “optimistic,” and 63% said they are “motivated”.

The Post-KFF poll was conducted in English and Spanish from February 11 to March 7, 2021, among 2,298 adults 18 years and older, including a sample of 1,327 U.S. healthcare workers. According to the Post, frontline healthcare workers were defined as those who had direct contact with COVID-19 patients or their bodily fluids. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points among the sample of healthcare workers.

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