(The Hill) — Health care workers are facing a serious mental health crisis.
A new report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that bullying, burnout and symptoms of poor mental health are being reported at higher levels than before the COVID pandemic began. 19.
The number of days that U.S. health care workers reported their mental health was not good in the past 30 days increased more than other workers between 2018 and 2022, the report found.
Health workers typically work long hours, often with unpredictable or rotating schedules. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare worker burnout was reaching “crisis level.” The pandemic has exacerbated the problems.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified long-standing challenges for many health care workers and contributed to new and worsening concerns, including compassion fatigue, depression, anxiety, substance use disorders and suicidal thoughts,” CDC Medical Director Debra Houry said Tuesday.
“While usually health care workers diligently care for others in their time of need, now it is our country’s health care workers who are suffering and we must act,” Houry said.
This report is the first to compare the self-reported well-being and working conditions of health workers before and after the start of the pandemic.
Overall, about 46 percent of health care workers reported feeling exhausted often or very often in 2022, up from 32 percent in 2018. Nearly half of health care workers also said they were likely or very likely to apply for a new job – on the other hand. to other groups of workers who reported a decrease in their intention to change jobs.
Harassment also increased during the pandemic, the CDC found. More than double the number of health workers reporting workplace harassment in 2022 compared to 2018: 13.4 percent in 2022, compared to 6.4 percent in 2018.
Among healthcare workers who reported being harassed, 85 percent reported feelings of anxiety, 81 percent reported feelings of burnout, and 60 percent reported feelings of depression.
But even those who didn’t report harassment experienced the same feelings. The survey found that 53 percent suffered from anxiety, 31 percent from depression and 42 percent from burnout.
“Calling our current and long-standing challenge a crisis is an understatement,” said L. Casey Chosewood, lead author of the report and director of the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
“Many of our nation’s healthcare systems are at their breaking point…we call on employers to take this information to heart and take immediate preventative action,” Chosewood added.
Workers who reported trusting management, having help from a supervisor, having enough time to complete their work, and believing their workplace promoted productivity reported less burnout and reduced risk poor mental health than those who did not.
The CDC report recommends that employers allow health care workers to participate in decision-making, build trust in management, provide assistance to supervisors and sufficient time to complete work, prevent harassment and to pay attention to reports of harassment if it occurs.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, employees are demanding better working conditions. But health care has been slow to embrace the idea, Chosewood said, largely because employers view health care workers as immune to the burnout and mental health issues that workers in general face.
“But at the end of the day, health workers are human beings. And they tell us, as we listen to their stories, that they really can’t do more,” Chosewood said.
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CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed a campaign to raise awareness of health care worker mental health issues and provide resources to hospital leaders and other worker employers to remove barriers to mental health care.