CDC warns about mental health crisis healthcare workers are facing, UAB has support program in place

BIRMIMGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – A new report issued by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week is alerting the healthcare industry of a growing mental health crisis healthcare workers are facing.

Researchers with the CDC analyzed worker survey data from before and after the pandemic and found healthcare workers are feeling more burned out and nearly half intend to look for a new job. These data show healthcare workers face worse mental health outcomes than workers in other industries.

The CDC urging healthcare workplaces to promote stress prevention, psychological health and focus on increasing trust between management and workers.

UAB Medicine created an Office of Wellness five years ago to support staff. Dr. David Rogers leads the office and said UAB has conducted worker surveys with findings similar to the nationwide data.

“Our own work shows everyone in the healthcare team is stressed but what stresses them has been different so solutions have to look different,” explained Dr. Rogers.

He added, “One of the things we found from our survey is that people are truly exhausted and stressed and what they’re wanting is just some recognition that people see what they’re doing.”

Appreciation goes a long way, said Dr. Rogers, but he recognizes workers need more than affirmation. Counselors, physicians and psychologists are part of the Wellness team.

“We really almost function like an urgent care so people who are really in crisis can reach out and have a conversation. We’ve recently had the great fortune of bringing on one of our retired chaplains, and he is out in the hospital every day.”

He continued, “We don’t wait in our offices, we have to go out because people are so busy that they can’t actually come to meet with someone.”

Dr. Rogers said the surveys showed different groups of workers have to have different solutions. For example, the anesthesiologist and nurse anesthetists came up with a peer support system that’s “been fantastic.”

“Someone was responsible…every day of checking in. Like, ‘How are you doing? What can I do to help you?’ I thought that was wonderful.”

“But,” he continued, “that particular program wouldn’t really work for another group.”

The solution might be different but the end goal is the same – making sure workers feel valued and supported.

“Our approach is to work with organizational leaders, with group leaders, but also to try to work with the individual workers.”

The CDC also found healthcare workers are experiencing more harassments from patients and co-workers post-pandemic.

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