Our healthcare workers have fought on the frontline for far too long now, and it’s beginning to take its toll in increasingly sinister ways
As the world remains gripped in the clutches of this harrowing pandemic, some people have had to rise above and sacrifice their safety for the greater good. There are too many people and professions to name, and we should be thankful for each and every person who continued to provide essential services while the rest of us were privileged enough to be able to work remotely.
One group that has arguably done as much as any, is our wonderful healthcare workers. Healthcare professionals across the globe have had to batten down the hatches and trudge forward in the face of one of the largest health crises ever seen by the modern world. They’re tired, overworked, and underpaid. And worst of all, they’re suffering.
The Unfortunate Truth of Working in Healthcare
Two recent research papers from the Columbia University Irving Medical Center have aimed to shine a light on the plight of the modern healthcare worker in the midst of this pandemic. The first paper surveyed workers about their sleep habits and the results were quite disturbing. Over 70% of healthcare workers showed moderate symptoms of insomnia during the first peak of the pandemic. Ten weeks later, 40% still displayed these symptoms despite the initial wave of COVID being over.
The second study by the research team delved deeper into this issue. It found that healthcare workers who reported poor sleep were 50% more likely to report signs of psychological distress, 70% more likely to suffer from anxiety, and twice as likely to display symptoms of depression. In a “chicken and egg” scenario, the study couldn’t confirm whether the poor sleep was causing the psychological distress, or vice versa. However, the two are quite clearly inextricably linked.
So What Does This Mean For Healthcare Workers?
To be blunt, it’s not good. It doesn’t take a scientist to deduce that a chronically tired healthcare worker can’t possibly carry out their duties as well as a well-rested one can. Not only does the worker suffer, but their respective patients do too.
And I want to be very clear – this is not their fault. Staff shortages, ever-changing protocols, low-pay, and unsociable hours are just some of the many issues affecting the modern day healthcare worker.
As the study’s lead author Marwah Abdalla put it, “previous research has shown that sleep trouble increases your risk for chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and cancer.” This is not just a problem that affects these people now, it could have serious long-lasting implications for their overall health and longevity.
Quite simply, more needs to be done. I don’t claim to have all the answers, and unfortunately I never will. What I do know however, is that this is a problem we can’t afford to let get much worse.
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