PTSD in Healthcare Workers

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The COVID-19 Outbreak has caused psychological distress to healthcare workers. Healthcare workers are experiencing high levels of stress and burnout. As the COVID-19 Pandemic races through the country, some workers may become traumatized. The COVID-19 Pandemic can leave medical staff with poor mental health outcomes. These poor mental health outcomes could express themselves as depression symptoms, physical symptoms, psychological impact, and posttraumatic stress disorder.

Mental health impact on healthcare workers can result in a shortage of nurses, technicians, and doctors. Healthcare and medical workers deserve our respect, but also good mental health treatment. Stress management and professional mental healthcare go a long way toward preventing, lessening, and managing this stress and trauma.

If you are a frontline health workers right now, primarily if they work with a COVID-19 patient, you are going through an experience that not many can understand. It is important to remember that working with a COVID-19 patient is not easy Putting on and off protective equipment, avoiding direct contact with COVID-19, hospital settings, hospital staff, and using experimental medicine can lead to symptoms of depression and symptoms of anxiety.

Health care workers feel like they are postponing the inevitable. Sometimes they can feel like no matter what they do; their patient will die. The health care workers can also experience paranoia and symptoms of anxiety due to the fear of COVID-19 infection due to direct contact with a COVID-19 patient. The stress and paranoia of direct contact can be more than enough to stress out a nurse. The pressure and the trauma of being overworked can overwhelm the medical staff.

As more frontline health care workers experience burnout, mental disorder, Depressive symptoms, and other various mental health symptoms, learning how to prevent and manage these become essential. These depressive symptoms can also cause alcohol use disorder and other multiple addictions. Family and friends can help by providing emotional support and listening to them. We must remain sympathetic to frontline health care workers as long as the COVID-19 Pandemic rages through the United States of America.

How does Burnout affect Healthcare Workers?

Burnout is a state of mental and physical exhaustion, both mentally and physically. It is a form of mental distress. Burnout can also lead to posttraumatic stress symptoms. Many healthcare workers experience burnout due to using experimental medicine. Burnout is not an official diagnosis. However, it is still genuine and can trigger severe symptoms, including anxiety disorder and symptoms of depression. Some amount of stress can help health care workers push themselves to accomplish tasks. However, it can cause compassion fatigue and can even affect health care workers’ marital status.

Stress that triggers burnout can come from several sources, but it is related to the COVID-19 Pandemic for healthcare workers. Signs of burnout include:

  • Exhaustion and fatigue without much relief
  • Headaches and muscle pains
  • Changes in how you eat or sleep
  • More frequent illness due to lowered immunity
  • A feeling of being helpless or trapped
  • Feeling detached
  • Low motivation, increased apathy, and procrastination
  • Withdrawal from responsibilities and loved ones
  • Lashing out at others
  • Avoiding work
  • Self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, or experimental medicine
  • A past study conducted this last summer found that healthcare workers experienced increased burnout during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. This past study shows that burnout affects women more than men and hospital staff. Some healthcare workers said that using experimental medicine was more stressful than treating a patient. They did not know whether the experimental medicine would help the patient or whether it was just a placebo.
  • As the COVID-19 Pandemic surges again, Frontline healthcare workers report increasing burnout symptoms. Burnout symptoms are also prevalent amongst emergency physicians and nurses. They also say something worse than usual burnout. During regular times, burnout results from stress that is not properly managed. During the COVID-19 Outbreak, workers are just overworked; they also face:
    • Uncertainty and fear for personal safety
    • Financial worries
    • Helplessness in the face of so many patients
  • Fake news and conspiracy theories claiming COVID-19 is a hoax.

How to Handle Burnout for Healthcare Workers

  • The responsibility placed on frontline healthcare workers is enormous. Medical Workers were were already overworked before the COVID-19 Pandemic. They struggled with stress and other mental health disorders. The problem increases as hospitals fill up and beds become scarce. As frontline healthcare workers, there are steps you can take to learn to navigate this situation:
      • Accept what you cannot control. Feelings that life is out of control can lead to burnout. You must be able to accept that you cannot control everything to reduce stress. Nurses and doctors want to save everyone. This is not a reality.
      • Set boundaries. You must set boundires with your work, but you can control your borders beyond that. Create a balance between your work and life. 
      • Find outlets for stress relief. An outlet is often most helpful. You can do a workout, run, or go for a walk. Stress and burnout are both mental and physical. As you release tension through your body, you will feel better mentally.
      • Rely on your support network. If you get home from work only to find you have more chores and tasks you don’t have the time to do, count on family and friends to help. They know how hard you work and will be happy to step in and do some laundry, make dinner, or go grocery shopping.
  • Talk to someone. Try not to hide your feelings. Talking to a friend about your struggles will be a huge relief. Before talking to your friend, it is essential to ask them to hear what you had to say. Repeating traumatizing stories can result in vicarious traumatization in your friend. Events that health care professionals see daily are much different from your average day. Your workday can affect the mental health status of your friends.
  • It is essential as healthcare professionals that we do not spread any vicarious traumatization to our loved ones. We do not want to have a psychological impact on them. If you do not feel comfortable talking to your friends, you can still talk to a therapist or a mental health professional. 

Symptoms of Trauma in Healthcare Workers

  • Researchers still investigate the causes of the Pandemic on healthcare and Emergency physician, One review of studies found the prevalence of trauma, Acute stress disorder, and other severe symptoms. 35 percent in healthcare workers experience symptoms of burnout. There are three types of traumatic experiences among healthcare workers during the Pandemic:
        1. Acute Stress Disorder. Acute stress is an fast reaction to a situation. It can change your mental health status immediately. Health care professionals can easily be exposed to acute stress from working with COVID-19 patients. Many experience PTSD-related symptoms as a result, including intrusive negative thoughts and memories.
        2. Vicarious traumatization. Trauma does not always occurs from something that happens directly to you. Vicarious traumatization can result from witnessing a horrific event. Health care workers often experience fatigue, loss of appetite, fear, sleep problems, and relationship conflicts.
        3. Traumatic stress. Posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, causes intrusive thoughts and hyperarousal. A lot of health care workers have these symptoms, even if they do not receive a PTSD diagnosis. Traumatic stress can have a significant impact on your mental health status.
  • There are studies that have found that certain risk factors make some healthcare workers more likely to develop Posttraumatic stress disorder or related symptoms due to the COVID-19 Pandemic: being younger, being female, being unmarried, quarantining, or being isolated and having a previous or existing mental Disorder.
  • Preventing and Managing Trauma Symptoms and changes in mental health status
  • There are healthcare workers which will develop Post tramatic stressfrom the COVID-19 Pandemic. Others will have trauma-related symptoms. Preventing them may not be possible, but managing and treating symptoms is. If you have risk factors for being adversely affected by trauma, pay attention to your symptoms, mood, and behaviors. The sooner you get treatment, the better. It can prevent the onset of full-blown PTSD.
  • Recovery from trauma disorders requires professional care, but you can also take other steps to manage the impact of trauma in healthcare work. Use stress-reduction strategies daily, even when you have a minute break at work. Deep breathing, visualization exercises, and meditation can reduce stress significantly and instantly.
  • Also necessary is time spent with friends and family. Trauma and PTSD tend to make people feel isolated and withdrawn. Spend time with people who care about you and who can distract you from the current situation. Laughing and having a little fun amid so much trauma is not disrespectful; it’s a healthy coping strategy.

Should You Leave Your Healthcare Job?

  • It may seem crazy, but if you find it impossible to cope with the COVID-19 Outbreak, consider quitting your job. If you can find another health care position or can afford to take some time off, it may be the best decision for mental and physical health. Time off can help reduce the psychological impact of the Pandemic on healthcare workers. It is important to take time for yourself. If you don’t, then your posttraumatic stress symptoms could return. Stress can affect your marital status and your relationship with your children.
  • The reality is that individual healthcare workers should not be solely responsible for preventing and managing burnout—experimental medicine in techniques for you as a healthcare worker to handle. It is important that employers have a role to play in creating a healthy work environment.
  • If you can find a job with hospital settings or medical center that works in teams, that addresses mental health, and supports its workers, you can continue to do the job you love but in a healthier way.
    • Frontline workers and hospital staff are struggling right now. They are afraid of direct contact with COVID-19. They are in psychological distress due to the COVID-19 Outbreak. If you are a health care worker, ask for help. You are not weak if you talk to a therapist Get professional help if you need to be well and carry on doing such important work.

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