The impacts of working conditions on the quality of the healthcare system

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Gabriele Montipó, a second-year medical student at the State University of Western
Paraná, in Francisco Beltrão, Brazil. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


One of the great challenges of the medical community nowadays is to achieve improvements in working conditions, that are currently precarious in a large part of the service network and which are making it increasingly difficult for professionals to do their work properly. Besides, there is not only one factor responsible for this critical scenario, but a network of processes that add up, generating difficult situations.

In their daily work, health professionals are exposed to multiple risk factors: physical, chemical, biological and mainly of a psychosocial nature. There is a lack of adequate instruments available, due to the lack of resources for the purchase of these materials, such as medicines; but even those well-equipped units can suffer from the overload of demand. A current example of this misfortune is the massive international demand for N-95 personal respirator masks, face shields and eye protection equipments due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Health professionals must come into close physical contact with patients during examinations and, without the correct equipment, they expose themselves to diseases on a daily basis. Furthermore, in Italy, doctors are even being forced to decide not to treat patients, because of the lack of resources.

Excluding physical fatigue due to the long night shifts, the doctor has to ‘try’ to overcome social problems, precarious working conditions, a patient who is unable to acquire medication, difficulty in hospitalization, lack of vacancies and difficulty in investigating with complementary expensive exams. To the young workforce that has just been introduced to this environment is even harder to adapt and to overcome these complicated conditions.

Consequently, these difficult situations translate into multiple and varied health problems, like sleep disorders, with sleep deprivation being considered an important factor for the increase wear and error. Also, anxiety produced at and by work contributes to the onset of psychiatric conditions, such as depression, burnout, panic syndrome, among others. It causes physical, cognitive and emotional overload, sometimes unbearable for professionals, causing illness, suffering and low job satisfaction. And all of these interact synergistically, enhancing health effects and damage.

But the solutions for this cruel reality are here, they just need to be put in practice. For example, implementing certain items of equipment better suited to difficult care would help improving the security of the health workers. Also, extending emotion-focused work discussion groups with management involvement could help smooth the emotional burden of the job. In addition, we need government agencies to contribute to a quality public health system through the expansion of their investments in infrastructure, remuneration of health professionals, combined with the participation of new technological mechanisms, supplying a shortage of doctors in the countryside and a better health process. After all, to make sure we can give our patients a good service, we need good material resources, with adequate human and working conditions.

References

WEERDT, Corinne Van De; BARATTA, René. Changes in working conditions for home healthcare workers and impacts on their work activity and on their emotions. Prod., São Paulo, v. 25, n. 2, p. 344-353, June 2015.

Machado MH (Coord.) Os médicos no Brasil: um retrato da realidade. Rio de Janeiro: Editora FIOCRUZ; 1997. 244 p.

About the author

Gabriele Montipó is a second-year medical student at the State University of Western
Paraná, in Francisco Beltrão, Brazil. She is a member of the International Federation of
Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) and participates in the Standing Committee On
Medical Education (SCOME). She wants to be part of the chance for a better medical
workplace and believes in the evolution of medical science. She has big hopes for the
future, as to become a surgeon and one day be part of the Doctors Without Borders
movement, helping to give medical care to those that most need it.

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