Health-Care Providers & Mental Health: 3 Reasons Why Self-Care Is Important for Nurses & Doctors by 30Seconds Health
After the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s never been a more fitting time to recognize the selfless and pivotal role that health-care workers play across society. Doctors, nurses and other medical "front-liners," including mental-health workers, bear the burden of physical and psychological stressors they routinely witness in their patients.
It’s not surprising that a 2022 study found that between 20 to 74 percent of medical professionals across the U.S. meet the diagnostic criteria for depression. As a result of the demanding nature of the work, higher levels of burnout are reported in medical professionals. A recent study found that almost 50 percent of participant medics experienced burnout. Unsurprisingly, this was also heightened during the pandemic.
While self-care is vital to all, it’s perhaps even more crucial for medical practitioners. Maintaining a stringent and thorough ritual is necessary for both health-care professionals’ sake and their patients’ sake.
One perhaps more left-of-center way of doing this is to analyze the potential psychological impact of becoming a specific medical professional, before pursuing the career. For instance, if you feel compelled to help the youngest of patients as they enter the world, you ought to research neonatal nursing requirements. This will also mentally prepare you for the academic requirements of what is both a highly demanding yet rewarding career.
But for those who are already medical professionals, here’s why it’s even more crucial to maintain self-care on both a physical and psychological scale:
1. The Burden of Responsibility
Surely you’ve heard the infamous Spiderman phrase, “with great power … come[s] great responsibility.” It should also be added that with great responsibility comes great reward.
Medical practitioners have the power – and knowledge required – to perform impactful medical procedures. They’ve also amassed what is sometimes considered burdensome responsibility to accurately perform such procedures, applying a plethora of knowledge in the process. As a result, they are able to alleviate pain, cure diseases and relieve ailments. This can be some of the most impactful work known to humanity.
Despite the huge responsibility to the well-being of their patients, it’s unsurprising that working as a health-care professional can inversely bring a great sense of satisfaction, an unwavering sense of purpose and a close emotional association.
In saying that, it needs to be addressed that matters of life and death may be commonplace depending on the specialization. For instance, a nurse or doctor in a critical trauma unit might witness death much more frequently than those in a general practice. Health-care workers often become desensitized through an ability to " functionally disconnect." This doesn’t mean that facing death routinely doesn’t affect their mental health.
Like all of us, health-care practitioners can engage in practices like meditation, journaling, routine exercise and most critically, therapy, in order to keep a check on their mental and physical health. Even therapists have their own therapists. After all, those doing the heavy lifting for the care of others also need to receive care in return.
2. Demanding and Challenging Work
It’s important to acknowledge that health-care workers often play a difficult role. It’s a role that’s not for everyone, especially if you’re more sensitive physically and/or mentally.
Every health-care practitioner encounters their own unique challenges, as typical of their role. For example, a nurse in palliative care might face difficult situations attending to patients with dementia, among other degenerative diseases. A substance abuse psychiatrist might struggle attending to an addict’s trauma, or a neurosurgeon might physically struggle conducting brain surgery. If anything, health-care providers should provide increased self-care due to their daily vocational struggles.
3. Helping Those In Need
Arguably the most worthwhile motivator of health-care professionals – the ability to help people in need – is often prioritized over the stress that comes with the role. Regardless of the specialization, at the end of the day, you’re tending to sick people who are most likely struggling in some way, shape or form.
As a medical practitioner, it may be in your nature to be giving. Doctors, nurses and other health-care workers are selfless in their dedication and devotion to their patients. It’s often embedded in their personalities, whether acquired through experience or as an initial motivator toward pursuing the career.
However, it’s may not appropriate to be selfless always. Recognize and vocalize the times when you should be selfish, or give back to yourself. This is relevant to us all, not just health-care workers.
It is undoubtedly necessary to practice self-compassion and there are many ways of doing so. Recognize any emotions you are feeling. Acknowledge them, out loud if you need to. Allow yourself to feel emotions you might have initially dismissed as a sign of weakness. Ultimately let go of what may be weighing you down mentally.
Self-care may be necessary to us all, yet it’s undoubtedly necessary for health-care workers. Due to the challenging, stressful and selfless nature of the work, medical professionals require a stringent routine in which they are able to give back to themselves and practice self-love and compassion. This may ultimately help to reduce the burnout typically observed among medical practitioners.
Note: The content on 30Seconds.com is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice. The information on this site should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, and is not a substitute for professional care. Always consult your personal healthcare provider. The opinions or views expressed on 30Seconds.com do not necessarily represent those of 30Seconds or any of its employees, corporate partners or affiliates.