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Breaking the Stigma: COVID-19 and the Clinician Wellness Crisis

Clinicians across the country have experienced the burdensome emotional and physical toll of COVID-19. High patient volumes, limited resources and persistent anxiety all compounded the already difficult task of caring for the sickest and most vulnerable patients.

The Clinician Wellness Crisis

Long-standing issues faced by clinicians, such as burnout, depression and substance misuse, were intensified by the added stressors of fighting on the frontlines of a global pandemic.

In 2020, 42% of physicians reported feeling burnt out according to Medscape’s Physician Burnout and Suicide Report, and each year, 300-400 clinicians die by suicide. Additionally, national averages show an increase in physician substance misuse during COVID-19.

To combat these issues, clinicians and healthcare organizations must prioritize intentional, focused wellness and mental health support during the pandemic and beyond. When clinicians feel empowered to care for their mental well-being, systems see improved patient care and engaged and high-functioning teams.

Clinicians feel a greater sense of stigma about accessing mental health treatment and are much less likely to engage in counseling or therapy. - Dr. Heather Owen

However, clinicians do not always seek the help they need, largely due to the stigma of healthcare workers seeking mental health treatment. To combat this, it is vital to provide consistent communication, resources and education around clinician burnout and wellness. Removing barriers to mental healthcare treatment includes education and communication to break this stigma.

Lessons Learned from COVID-19

The tragedies of the COVID-19 pandemic are staggering. Yet, the day-to-day challenges from the pandemic also forced healthcare organizations to innovate and accelerate learning.

Faced with the unique challenges of COVID-19, TeamHealth centered much of its innovation and learning on clinician well-being, understanding that clinicians must be cared for to deliver vital care to patients.

Throughout the pandemic, TeamHealth expanded clinician support programs and recognized the need for clinician well-being connection points, such as consistent wellness calls. Additionally, increased resources and clinical updates were vital to empowering clinicians to deliver safe, high-quality care to patients nationwide during difficult times. Beyond clinical support, TeamHealth also prioritized educating and empowering leaders to identify clinicians who are struggling and provide early intervention.

Dr. Heather Owen talked to Becker’s Hospital Review about best practices to fight the clinician wellness crisis and lessons learned during COVID-19.

To read more, download the full article.