DENVER — For many healthcare workers, the stresses of the last year don’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
“We saw some really bad things over the course of the last year,” said Dr. Comilla Sasson, an emergency medicine physician with Kaiser Permanente.
According to a report by the National Academy of Medicine, even before COVID-19, more than 50% of clinicians treating patients reported that they had experienced burnout. Dr. Comila Sasson says a lot that stress comes from the unknown of what the future holds.
“We have that sort of post-traumatic stress disorder of like, things were bad before and we don’t want them to get there again, and I think that’s what we deal with the most, at least me personally that is what I deal with,” said Dr. Sasson.
As Colorado’s hospital capacity ticks upwards with more delta variant cases, mainly within people who are unvaccinated, many doctors are feeling stuck in a cycle.
“I think there is some level of frustration, probably in that this could have been prevented, and I think that is something that a lot of folks are dealing with right now,” said Dr. Sasson.
This is leading many to suffer from burnout.
“We’ve seen more workplace stress, and we’ve seen the inability to manage it at the same time,” said Zack Bodenweber, a social worker with History Medical Social Work.
Bodenweber says there are three main symptoms of burnout: feelings of energy depletion and exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job and reduced professional efficacy.
“The worst thing that happens is when people leave their jobs physically but not mentally, and now they’re home or replaying scenarios of what happened,” said Bodenweber.
Bodenweber says stress management can help with burnout.
“Not everybody can take a long break and just get away for a while, so it is, how can you really leverage [a couple of minutes] of time to calm the sympathetic nervous system?” said Bodenweber.
He said the most important thing is creating an environment where healthcare workers can share how they feel.
“I want people to know that burnout is not a personal weakness, and that is a really, really unfortunate stigma that happens, and it prevents people from talking about it if they feel it is a weakness,” said Bodenweber.
With no signs of COVID-19 hospitalizations slowing down, stress management could keep this workforce healthy and able to do their jobs.
“I think at the end of the day a lot of us still have to think what we are doing is important,” said Dr. Sasson.