Mental Health Matters: Caring for Healthcare Workers

Choosing to be part of the healthcare profession comes with its own unique set of challenges when it comes to the nature of the work. Intense physical and mental loads can cause healthcare workers at every level to experience burnout. If mental healthcare is not a priority, nurses and healthcare professionals are at risk for struggling with emotional and mental health issues both on and off the job. 

This post will take a look at the current state of mental health among healthcare workers, why these professionals are struggling with mental health challenges, how the healthcare and staffing industries can support them, and the resources available to support. 

The Current State of Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic taught us much about the value of our healthcare workers, and it also exposed us to the immense challenges they face every day. Between June and September 2020, a survey from Mental Health America found that 93% of healthcare workers reported feeling stressed, 82% were emotionally exhausted, 68% were physically exhausted, and 45% of nurses reported that they were not getting the emotional support they needed to carry on. These percentages were so shocking that organizations across the country decided to do something about them.

In late 2021, healthcare workers reported some improvements: 55% reported burnout and 62% admitted to some mental health repercussions. The improvements in these numbers offer some relief, but clearly, there is a long way to go. Now is the time to continue prioritizing healthcare professionals’ mental health and supporting their wellbeing at work.

Why Working in Healthcare Causes Mental Health Challenges

The nature of working in healthcare can make it difficult to maintain good mental health.  Even before the pandemic began, nurses and other healthcare professionals were already predisposed to experiencing anxiety and depression because of:

  • Stressful situations in caring for those who are sick. 
  • Consistent and frequent exposure to human suffering and death. 
  • Pressure from relationships with patients, family members, and employers not found in other professions.
  • Working conditions that present an ongoing risk for exposure to disease.
  • Physically demanding work and risk of injury due to that demand. 
  • Long, unpredictable scheduled work hours. Rotating or irregular shifts take a negative toll on physical health, which can in turn harm mental health. 
  • The stigma associated with mental health challenges and illness. 
  • Unstable and unpredictable work lives. 
  • High administrative burdens and very little control over scheduling. 

Fatigue, strain, stress, dealing with loss and grief, and physical burnout build up after weeks, months, and years of working in healthcare, and many healthcare workers are not given the support and resources they need to stay healthy. 

How Can We Support Healthcare Workers?

The progress in promoting and supporting mental health among our healthcare workers is promising, but there is still a long way to go. There is a lot we can do as part of the healthcare industry, including:

  • Raising awareness of mental health issues. Educating ourselves and our employees on the prevalence and risks of mental health as well as the resources available to those who are struggling will help erase the stigma. 
  • Creating better access to mental health care. Making sure that benefit packages include access to mental health care and, when necessary, allowing your employees to take time off to attend appointments creates better access.
  • Identifying workplace and community support. Providing lists of therapists, counselors, etc. for your employees to contact if they need help can ease the transition into therapy or counseling.
  • Identifying and improving data to address the mental health of employees. Establishing a routine to check in with your employees, either through a survey or face-to-face, can let them know that you are thinking about both their physical and mental health on the job. Show them that you care, and they are more likely to seek help when they need it. 
  • Prioritizing the emotional safety of your employees. There has been a rise in the verbal and physical abuse of healthcare professionals. Nurses and others in your employ deserve to feel safe on the job and, if an incident occurs, to feel supported by your administration. 
  • Filling in staffing gaps. All of the above will help improve staffing retention, but when gaps are evident, being appropriately staffed is essential. Choose a trusted staffing partner, such as Supplemental Health Care, and ease the immense burden placed on nurses, therapists, and other healthcare workers you work with. 

Mental Health Resources to Help Healthcare Professionals

Many organizations have made it their mission to support the mental health and wellbeing of healthcare professionals. In an effort to provide support, check out this collection of resources that offer valuable information on this critical topic.

  • American Hospital Association Stressing and Coping Resources: Initially begun to help healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic, these resources are still important and available to help relieve stress and burnout. 
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): SAMHSA has a helpline, different outreach materials, and many resources for finding therapists and treatment for anxiety and depression. 
  • CDC Workplace Health Promotion: Targeted specifically for employers, this gives you resources to help build a culture of understanding and acceptance for those dealing with mental health struggles in the workplace.
  • PH-Hero Workforce Resource Center: This is a collection of resources to help public health agency leaders, supervisors, and team members. 

How Supplemental Health Care Supports Mental Health

Looking for another great resource? Look no further than our team at Supplemental Health Care. We have a dedicated team to support our nurses and healthcare professionals on assignment as well as through their careers.

We believe that healthcare workers deserve to have support and care when it comes to their mental health, which is why we’ve partnered with Operation Happy Nurse to help healthcare professionals have access to mental health and wellness resources. If you are looking to work for a healthcare staffing company that cares about you as much as you do for others, contact us today or search our open job opportunities.