It is no wonder then that healthcare workers also have some of the highest rates of addiction, depression, and anxiety disorders. Nearly 17 million healthcare professionals in the U.S. have in recent years faced a pileup of overwhelming stressors. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and rural hospital closings across the country, healthcare professionals’ dedication to their work can result in full-blown mental health disorders. Looking to address this pressing need, Ambrosia Treatment Centers in South Florida now provides addiction and mental health treatment for healthcare professionals.
Over 100,000 doctors are believed to be struggling with drug dependence
According to USA Today, “Across the country, more than 100,000 doctors, nurses, technicians, and other health professionals struggle with abuse or addiction, mostly involving narcotics such as Oxycodone and Fentanyl.” Medical professionals have the highest rate of addiction out of all other professionals. With more than 100,000 doctors in the United States suffering from drug abuse, and abusing narcotics such as oxycodone or fentanyl, specialized rehab for healthcare professionals is vital for both the physician and their patients.
Burnout is the feeling of prolonged stress in the workplace. This feeling is especially prevalent in helping professions like social work, education, and medicine. Healthcare professionals report fatigue and physical exhaustion after spending multiple hours tending to the needs of others. Burnout is also characterized by frustration and feelings of disconnection toward one’s work as well as reduced productivity at work, home, or both.
Burnout among healthcare professionals is not only personally unhealthy, but it can also be dangerous, as professional burnout has been linked to difficulty concentrating at work, hostile attitudes towards patients, and difficulties regarding coworker relationships.
Depression is a major risk factor for those in the healthcare profession. A survey published by the International Journey of Nursing Studies suggested that more than 30% of healthcare workers likely meet the diagnostic criteria for clinical depression.
Physical symptoms of depression can include fatigue, a lack of energy, changes in sleeping and eating habits, weight loss or weight gain, and slowed physical responses. Ongoing or major depression can lead to feelings of hopelessness, despair, and suicidal ideation.
It should come as no surprise that healthcare work is stressful work, particularly healthcare work conducted in recent years. In fact, a January 2022 survey of nurses during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic reported approximately 29% of nurses experienced symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety is the feeling of fear, dread, or uneasiness. Its physical symptoms include excessive sweating, restlessness, and rapid heartbeat. Anxiety can be a normal reaction to stress, and it can also offer a temporary increase of energy and focus. However, facing a high level of stress every day can result in anxiety symptoms that never go away and can get worse over time. In this way, anxiety interferes with job performance or personal relationships.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD for short, can affect anyone, though its prevalence among those in lifesaving fields—like healthcare—is extremely high. In fact, the rate of PTSD among healthcare professionals was just over 39%, according to a September 2022 survey published by the National Institutes of Health.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder affecting people exposed to a traumatic event. Such events include acts of physical or sexual violence or life-threatening experiences like natural disasters or war. Those with PTSD tend to relive their trauma and can be triggered by a sight or sound or witnessing a similar traumatic event.
When talking about PTSD among healthcare workers, vicarious trauma ought to be mentioned. First identified in the 1980s and labeled the “cost of caring,” vicarious trauma is also sometimes referred to as “compassion fatigue.” Vicarious trauma is the emotional residue of exposure to traumatic stories or the witnessing of fear, pain, and terror, among others.
Symptoms of vicarious trauma are much like those of PTSD: reexperiencing the traumatic events, along with feelings of numbness, avoidance, and persistent arousal.
- Noticeable changes in job performance. This can include too many mistakes when charting or marking certain drugs as wasted more frequently.
- Increased number of complaints from co-workers, staff, or patients.
- Failure to show up for appointments or meetings.
- Changing jobs frequently
- Preferring night shifts where there is less supervision and more access to medication
- Working extra shifts or longer hours in order to pay for their habit or have access to the drug room
- Erratic behavior or mood swings.
- Wearing inappropriate clothing for the time of year or environment. For instance, wearing long sleeves in the middle of the summer, or dark sunglasses indoors.
- Spending too much time in the bathroom
- Volunteering often to administer narcotics to patients.
- Glassy eyes or small pupils