Why it Matters

We as humans are facing an international mental health crises with nearly half of us having a mental health diagnosis by the age of 40.  Emotional exhaustion, burnout, depression, and PTSD are now commonplace within our families, communities, and places of work.

In terms of professional caregiving, this crises is further compounded by the healthcare system.  It’s not surgery wait times, federal transfer payments, antibiotic resistant bacteria or even opioid overdose deaths. The crisis is the epidemic of healthcare workers suffering from mental health conditions, caused or exacerbated by the toll that high stress, often trauma laden positions exert.  The statistics are alarming: some as high as 94% of healthcare providers that work with emergency events screening positive for PTSD (Iranmanesh, Tirgari, & Bardsiri, 2013), nearly half of healthcare employees, including physicians, screen positive for depression and report being unwell due to work stress, which impacts morale, absenteeism, retention rates and patient care (BMG Research, 2013; Chandler, 2012; Simon & McFadden, 2017).

In 2016 nurses made up 12% of Worksafe BC mental health claims (BCNU, 2019).  While nurses represent the mass majority of the healthcare workforce (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015), all caregivers are at risk for emotional exhaustion and burnout.  For every one dollar spent on Canada’s healthcare system, about 70 cents of it is spent on human resources, not including education costs (BC Ministry, 2014).  The ultimate cost, billions of dollars aside, is patient safety as unhealthy providers are more likely to make errors, call in sick, and ultimately leave the profession, which causes a huge cost in terms of recruitment and training.

While some healthcare providers leave the workplace as a result of burnout, many stay – further contributing to toxic work environments.  In fact, most of us who have been in the field long enough are familiar with the symptoms of burnout and have contributed to workplace hostility as a result; these experiences have become a norm in today’s healthcare culture.  Burnout is recognized as an occupational hazard for many service-oriented professions with ongoing and intense personal and emotional contact.  In fact, the province of BC recently extended presumptive PTSD coverage for mental health claims by all types of nurses (Providence Health 2019).

While some healthcare providers leave the workplace as a result of burnout, many stay – further contributing to toxic work environments.  In fact, most of us who have been in the field long enough are familiar with the symptoms of burnout and have contributed to workplace hostility as a result; these experiences have become a norm in today’s healthcare culture.  Burnout is recognized as an occupational hazard for many service-oriented professions with ongoing and intense personal and emotional contact.  In fact, the province of BC recently extended presumptive PTSD coverage for mental health claims by all types of nurses (Providence Health 2019).

Resiliency is important to enable thriving.  Personal thriving requires a sense of coherence (mindfulness, gratitude, and optimism) and congruence (self-compassion, forgiveness, and resolving trauma).  Workers who exhibit congruence and coherence generally feel positive about their contribution to the organization, are more effective and productive, and show less absenteeism (Salt et al. 2008; Steger et al. 2012; Steege & Rainbow 2017; Dames 2018).  Further, since Canadian workers spend an average of 10.5 hours working and commuting every day, promoting healthy behaviours at work is essential to decrease the burden and cost of stress-related absenteeism, lost productivity, disability claims (Bodenheimer and Sinsky 2014; Worksafe BC, 2018).  Research shows that working on congruence and coherence with providers naturally impacts workplace culture, especially if well supported by leadership (Steger, Dik, & Duffy, 2012; Dixon-Woods et al. 2014; West, 2018).

For our care providers, for the future of our healthcare system, for us and for our children, we can do better, we must do better.

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