Far too many healthcare professionals suffered burnout long before coronavirus entered the lexicon. Today, however, overwork is even more of a threat. While demands vary between departments and facilities, many doctors and nurses report considerable fatigue prompted by the pandemic. This represents a huge risk not only for medical workers, but also for the vulnerable patients they treat.
The State of Burnout in Healthcare
United States medical professionals entered the coronavirus pandemic with alarming rates of burnout. An article from the Harvard Medical School references the current situation as “stabbing a fresh wound.”
Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers are forced to take on greater caseloads what they are accustomed to. This is prompted not only by regional spikes in coronavirus cases, but also by dwindling numbers of available employees, with many forced to stay home after becoming infected.
Not only are healthcare professionals tasked with working long hours, they must take on new mental burdens. In the worst affected areas, many make tragic decisions as they allocate equipment and care. Some find themselves wracked with guilt when their patients suffer or even die.
How Burnout Impacts Patients
Doctors and nurses cannot provide quality care unless they’re rested and healthy. When they’re compromised by physical or mental burnout, they’re distractible and prone to mistakes — even when handling routine matters that would ordinarily require little effort.
Medical professionals suffering burnout also struggle to provide the emotional and spiritual care that their anxious patients require. Bedside manner may suffer, with healthcare workers finding it difficult to remain calm when the going gets tough.
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