NHS workers have shown more cases of PTSD than military veterans
PTSD in NHS staff
Changing your mindset from saving lives in arduous circumstances, with the threat of personal infection, to discussing dinosaurs with a young child or the price of pasta with your partner, and then back, may be rather challenging.
While most healthcare workers will be used to dealing with illness and death, the duration and severity of working during a pandemic and exposure to trauma has been shown to correlate well with potential psychological impact. And of course while soldiers on deployment know the date they’ll return to a safe and reassuring environment; this isn’t the case for healthcare workers at the moment. No one really knows when, or indeed if, the pandemic will end.
Most studies of groups exposed to traumatic events measure the presence or absence of PTSD once the traumatic event is over. These studies have examined military personnel or disaster workers who’ve returned from deployment, or emergency services staff after they’ve attended a major incident.
Measuring mental health symptoms once a crisis has ended is very different to doing so during an ongoing crisis, when a degree of distress, fear or even excitement would be expected. Unlike personnel who deploy away from home to a war or disaster zone for a discrete period of time, critical care staff have to cope with regularly transitioning between intensely challenging workplaces and their usual domestic environment.
In the longer term it will be necessary to actively monitor staff, which is the recommendation of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for the initial management of traumatic stress reactions. This can be done by alert, sensitive and compassionate managers and may be helped by providing staff, and indeed their families, with information about what to look out for.
It’s important that staff who do unfortunately develop mental health problems get timely access to NICE recommended treatments and that all care provision has a specific “return to work” focus. Being at work, where possible, is good for the NHS and the staff member themselves.
The pandemic is a tough time for everyone, in particular NHS staff. But there’s good reason to think with the right ongoing support, and the use of evidence-based approaches during recovery, this burden of ill health can be reduced as long as we take this seriously and plan for the time ahead.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.