HLT 302 Topic 8 Discussion Question Two
HLT 302 Topic 8 Discussion Question Two
How realistic is it to expect health care workers to model mental, physical, and spiritual health? If Americans tend to be overweight, underactive, workaholics who experience burnout, why should health care workers be any different? Base your response from the GCU introduction and the textbooks. Cite references from your reading to support your answer.
In an era of intense industrialization, rapid technological advent and globalization, employees are expected to work more intensely and successfully deliver more. Being exposed to stress for too long, may lower a person’s efficiency and could trigger negative consequences on one’s health or family and social life. Nevertheless, not every manifestation of stress is always workplace stress.
Workplace stress may be caused by various factors. Some professions are inherently more stressful than others. Professions that involve human contact and rapid decision-making skills, while those decisions can have a serious (financial, social or other) impact, are among the most stressful ones.1
Healthcare professions are among the first six most stressful ones.1 Not all health professionals develop the same level of stress, and not all of them develop signs of professional burn-out either. According to several studies, Intensive Care Unit medical/nursing staff report that dealing with death is their first source of stress, compared to nurses who work in Internal Medicine or Surgical Departments. For those professionals, workload and adequate manning is their most important stress source.2 According to other studies, surgical nurses assess the emotional aspect as less important compared to their colleagues in oncology and hematology departments.3 In general, healthcare professionals are more prone to stress and professional burn-out, because they are responsible for human lives and their actions – or lack of action – can have a serious impact on their patients.4
Nevertheless, since stress is a complicated phenomenon, we can never be too confident and decisive regarding stress sources; on the contrary we should take into account what each person individually perceives as a stressful factor. Some factors that may play a role regarding workplace-related emotional disorders and could have a negative impact on the health professionals’ emotional health are the following: i) the stressful nature of the profession. Work-related stress in combination with psychological quests, ethical dilemmas and the patients’ demands can be a burden on the professional’s emotional state.5,6 ii) Workplace anxiety and tensions could lead to lower quality of care, which in its turn could lower professional satisfaction and consequently their quality of life.7 iii) Continuous interaction with the patients and their families/friends can foster emotions of anger, embarrassment, fear, and desperation, especially when there are no solutions to the patients’ problems, thus leading health professionals to a more complicated, frustrating situation.6,7 iv) Lack of support from colleagues and higher rank staff, conflicts among members of the therapeutic team, vague roles, different hierarchy ranks, lack of an organizational structure and administration-related factors have their share regarding psychiatric morbidity.7,8 v) Some causal factors for psychiatric morbidity include individual characteristics, such as personality, personal experiences, emotional maturity, personal style, as well as demographics such as age, sex, socio-economical status, years of employment and family status. 8,9
All of the above factors, as well as a professional’s ability to be actively involved in work-related decisions, may influence the intensity of the symptoms and the consequences psychiatric morbidity may have on a person’s life.7 Stress sources act accumulatively on a person leading to physical, psychological and behavioral reactions, or even to psychosomatic disease.10 A study that took place in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany, Japan, Singapore, USA, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil and Egypt showed that time pressure, deadlines, poor working conditions, excessive workload, prolonged working hours, conflict between different beliefs, interpersonal relationships and maladministration, are among the top workplace stress factors.10 Stress has consequences on both persons and their workplace. Regarding the individuals concerned, stress may lead to poor mental health as well as alcohol abuse, heavier smoking habits and pharmaceutical substance abuse.11
The effects of stress on the staff fall within the following categories. i) Subjective experiences (stress, depression, anxiety, emotional withdrawal, gradual loss of empathy towards the patients).8,9,12 ii) Physical consequences (the whole range of psychosomatic conditions, short-duration migraines, skin rashes, irritable bowel syndrome, cardiovascular diseases and strokes).9,12,13 iii) Behavioral changes (irritability, alcoholism, addictive behaviors).11,14 Stress can compromise a professional’s ability to provide high quality care to his/her patients, since it can promote professional burn-out and recurring depressive episodes. Finally, work-related stress can have an impact on the professional’s family by decreasing their overall quality of life.