Study Highlights Rising Mental Health Crisis Among Healthcare Workers

The CDC urges medical facilities to promote stress prevention, positive emotional health resources and safe work environments.

Monday, October 30th 2023, 5:54 am

By: News On 6, CBS News


The CDC has a new report highlighting the growing mental health crisis healthcare workers are facing.

The CDC compared data from before and after the pandemic, and found healthcare workers are feeling more burned out, are experiencing harassment at work, and face worse mental health outcomes than workers in other industries.

Ascension St. John said it is committed to ensuring the safety, health and wellbeing of all associates and provide ongoing support and helpful resources.

The Saint Francis Health system said it has a zero-tolerance policy in place for anyone who threatens the staff. There are also mental health services available for employees.

Greg McFarland from Hillcrest Medical Center said these are important concerns, which need to be addressed.

“Our employee engagement overall is 82-percent, which means the staff likes being here. We’re seeing that from the turnover numbers. We’re not seeing staff leave. We’re seeing staff who traveled across America come back and when we talk to them in employee orientation, the first comment is, 'I’m coming home to Hillcrest.' And that makes us feel good because that’s what we wanted to deliver,” said Greg McFarland, Chief Operating Officer at HMC.

Healthcare workers play a huge role in our communities. The CDC urges medical facilities to promote stress prevention, positive emotional health resources and safe work environments.

CDC's findings on harassment

The findings, published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vital Signs report Tuesday, show that in 2022, 13.4% of health workers said they'd been harassed at work, up from 6.4% in 2018. 

Harassment, as defined in the report, includes "threats, bullying, verbal abuse, or other actions from patients and coworkers that create a hostile work environment."

Study on healthcare workers' mental health

The survey also found health workers who reported being harassed also had increased odds of reporting anxiety, depression and burnout compared to those who weren't harassed.

Staffing shortages also played a role in health workers reporting poorer mental health.

From 2018 to 2022, a higher percentage of health workers (25.7% vs. 32%) reported there were often not enough staff members where they worked.

"Health workers who reported that there were not enough staff members had 1.91 times the odds of reporting symptoms of anxiety and 2.73 times the odds of reporting burnout compared with those who did not report staffing shortages," the report reads. 

Positive working conditions, however, including trust in management and supervisor help, were linked with lower odds of burnout and poor mental health.

The report notes that CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has developed a national campaign, called Impact Wellbeing, to provide resources for employers to help support the mental health of workers in the field.

Healthcare worker shortage and burnout

Burnout in the health care industry is a widespread problem that long predates the COVID-19 pandemic, though the chaos introduced by the coronavirus's spread made things worse. Rates of physician suicide, partly fueled by burnout, have been a concern for decades

Currently, the U.S. is dealing with an unprecedented shortage of nurses, which is contributing burnout and low morale.

As "CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell reported last year, the U.S. needs more than 200,000 new registered nurses every year until 2030 to meet the demand.

Caitlyn Hall, a nurse at Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C., told O'Donnell she loves her job but the last few years haven't been easy.

"I think people are really exhausted," Hall said. "We've been relying on a lot of overtime these last few years to really fill kind of the holes on the unit."


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