Why We Must Prioritize the Well-Being of Emergency Medicine Providers

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Emergency care clinics and emergency rooms look quite different today when compared to just a year ago. While there’s long been a shortage of emergency medicine doctors and nurses across the US, and particularly in rural areas, the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation, significantly stressing an already overburden system.

Today, as emergency medicine responds to the new environment, healthcare is finding ways to take care of another wave of patients — namely the providers themselves.

Stressing the system. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that emergency department visits are down nationally by 42% because of patient Covid-19 fears, there remains an overall shortage of emergency medicine providers – and the gap is growing. By 2033, the Association of American Medical Collages projects a shortfall of at least 139,000, a majority of which will be at hospitals and facilities located in rural areas. While retirement is the impetus for declining numbers, the system is being stretched even thinner by the pandemic.

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As emergency rooms and clinics ramp up testing and treatment for Covid-19 patients, a growing number emergency medicine providers are leaving their positions because of burnout, depression, and mental health-related issues. Disappearing Doctors, a coalition started by FCB Health New York, estimates that three out of four doctors meet the criteria for burnout. And this year alone, 400 physicians are projected to succumb to suicide.

Source of the struggle. According to this April 2020 article in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, physicians are battling emotional fatigue and burnout during the Covid-19 pandemic because of issues such as:

  • A lack of resources, including personal protective equipment, ventilators, and beds
  • Increased number of patients
  • Inability to socialize to blow off steam
  • Pressure to make critical decisions
  • Increased personal risk
  • Longer work hours
  • Self-isolation from family and friends; loneliness

Making a provider-centric move. In response to the skyrocketing number of emergency medical providers struggling with mental health issues, the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and many others issued a joint statement explaining the importance of prioritizing provider mental health and creating an environment where struggling doctors can feel empowered to seek help without fear of losing credentials. This need is exactly why Disappearing Doctors was created. The website offers a highly responsive community where doctors can share experiences, discuss issues, and seek assistance….

Source: The Staffing Stream

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