Can we ensure patients’ safety without taking care of healthcare workers?

(Zach Vessels, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Gabriele Montipó, a second-year medical student at the Universidade
Estadual do Oeste do 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
.


The relationship between workplace quality and health conditions is an increasingly discussed topic nowadays. Recent research shows that the work environment can be decisive as to the development and/or worsening of health problems, which in turn can impair the individual’s work performance, creating a vicious cycle. This seems to be a very common scenario, especially when it comes to the healthcare area.

In their daily work, health workers are exposed to physical, chemical, biological and psychosocial risk factors. These professions have very exhausting aspects, such as the requirement of great dedication of time, long working hours, lots of personal responsibilities and constant contact with the suffering of patients and family members. Excluding physical fatigue due to the long night shifts, these professionals have to overcome precarious working conditions, such as the lack of adequate instruments and safety issues. Other specific stressors are role conflict, lack of supervision, low remuneration, lack of recognition and constant pressure. Therefore, it is a complex and demanding work environment. Besides, some individuals even work in more than just one job. 

Consequently, these difficult situations translate into multiple and varied health problems, such as sleep disorders, muscle tension, tachycardia, headaches, among others. They can also provoke mental health conditions, such as depression and panic syndrome. The physical, cognitive and emotional overload can be unbearable for some professionals, generating stress and negatively affecting their quality of life, which can lead to abuse and dependence on psychoactive substances. In this scenario, the issue of Burnout stands out, a psychological syndrome caused by poor adaptation to a stressful, prolonged work with a high-tension load, that manifests itself through emotional exhaustion, an attitude of coldness and distance towards colleagues and patients, and feelings of incompetence. It also seems to affect significantly the younger professionals.

In addition, all these health symptoms can negatively interfere with the worker’s disposition and the quality of care that he provides to users, being an important factor leading to decreased efficiency and increased wear and error. Therefore, healthcare professionals must take proper care of their own physical and mental health, in order to better perform the important task of taking care of other people. Thus, the development of researches regarding the work processes and the quality of life of these professionals is essential to help the implementation of specific assistance programs, as health promotion and disease prevention actions. The support and protection of healthcare workers is fundamental in order to protect all the population they serve.

References

PAPARELLI, Renata; SATO, Leny; OLIVEIRA, Fábio de. A saúde mental relacionada ao trabalho e os desafios aos profissionais da saúde. Rev. bras. saúde ocup., São Paulo, v. 36, n. 123, p. 118-127,  June  2011.  https://doi.org/10.1590/S0303-76572011000100011.

TORRES, Albina Rodrigues et al. Qualidade de vida e saúde física e mental de médicos: uma autoavaliação por egressos da Faculdade de Medicina de Botucatu-UNESP. Revista Brasileira de Epidemiologia, v. 14, p. 264-275, 2011.

Rössler, W. Stress, burnout, and job dissatisfaction in mental health workers. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 262, 65–69 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00406-012-0353-4

SANTOS, Ana Flávia de Oliveira; CARDOSO, Carmen Lúcia. Profissionais de saúde mental: manifestação de stress e burnout. Estud. psicol. (Campinas), Campinas, v. 27, n. 1, p. 67-74, Mar.  2010.  http://doi.org/10.1590/S0103-166X2010000100008.

About the author

Gabriele Montipó is a second-year medical student at the Universidade
Estadual do Oeste do Paraná, in Francisco Beltrão, Brazil. She is a member of the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) and Local Director of the Standing Committee On Medical Education (SCOME). 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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