Health & Wellness

5 Tips for Improving Mental Health for Healthcare Workers

Portia Wofford, LPN
May 24, 2024
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May marks Mental Health Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness and reducing stigma around mental health challenges. At Trusted Health, we recognize the unique pressures healthcare workers face and the critical need to address mental well-being within this community. This blog not only highlights the stark realities of mental health issues in the healthcare industry but also offers solutions to foster resilience and well-being among those who care for us all.

Understanding Mental Health in the Healthcare Industry

Exhaustion. Stress. Burnout. These are just a few words that paint a grim picture of the mental health of healthcare workers today. A recent nurse mental health survey by Trusted Health found that an alarming percentage of nurses experience symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

This isn't surprising. Long hours, emotional strain, workplace violence, and exposure to trauma are all factors that contribute to mental health struggles among healthcare professionals. Here's a closer look at some of the mental health struggles commonly faced by healthcare workers:

  • Exposure to trauma and loss. Witnessing death, suffering, and critical situations regularly can lead to secondary traumatic stress, a form of PTSD experienced by those exposed to the trauma of others. Bonds with patients make loss even harder.
  • Long hours and unpredictable schedules. Shift work, long hours, and unpredictable schedules disrupt sleep and personal time, leading to fatigue, irritability, and stress.
  • Moral distress. Ethical dilemmas or feeling unable to provide adequate care can cause moral distress, leading to helplessness, guilt, and frustration
  • Compassion fatigue. The constant emotional demands of caring for others can lead to compassion fatigue, a state of emotional and physical exhaustion. This can manifest as cynicism, detachment, and reduced empathy.
  • Stigma around mental health. Unfortunately, the healthcare field can have a culture of stoicism and self-sacrifice, which discourages workers from seeking help for mental health concerns. The fear of being judged, losing their license, or being seen as weak can prevent individuals from getting the support they need.
  • Lack of access to mental health support. Limited access to affordable, confidential mental health services within healthcare workplaces is a major barrier to seeking help. The long wait times and high costs associated with traditional therapy can further discourage healthcare workers from seeking mental health support.

Understanding these challenges is crucial to addressing the mental health crisis among healthcare workers. 

Why Mental Health Support for Nurses is Important

It's not just nurses who suffer when mental health concerns go unaddressed. Burnt-out and stressed medical professionals are more likely to make mistakes, experience job dissatisfaction, and leave the workforce altogether.  This creates a ripple effect, impacting patient care, increasing healthcare costs, and creating staffing shortages. Accessible and confidential mental health support is crucial for your well-being and:

  • Improved quality of care for patients
  • Reduced medical errors
  • Increased job satisfaction and retention
  • Enhanced personal well-being
  • Greater ability to manage stress and demanding situations

Don't hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional if you're struggling. There is no shame in seeking support, and it can make a world of difference in your well-being.

5 Mental Health Strategies for Travel Nurses and Allied Professionals

While traditional therapy is an excellent option for many healthcare workers, there are also innovative approaches gaining traction in the fight for better mental health. Here are a few examples:

1. Joining Peer support groups 

Connecting with colleagues who understand the challenges of working in healthcare can be powerful. Peer support groups— like those at  Don’t Clock Out— provide a safe space to share experiences, offer encouragement and develop coping mechanisms together.

2. Participating in Debriefing sessions

Critical incident stress (CISD) is a facilitated group discussion after a traumatic event. These sessions allow healthcare workers to process their emotions, share experiences, and begin the healing process. Hospitals and healthcare systems are increasingly offering CISD.

3. Use Storytelling as a therapeutic tool

Sharing personal stories can be cathartic and help healthcare workers process emotions. Narrative therapy uses storytelling techniques to help individuals identify patterns, reframe situations, and gain a sense of control over their narratives. This approach can be used in individual therapy or group settings.

4. Practice Mindfulness and meditation. 

According to Verywell Mind, mindfulness meditation is a mental training practice that teaches you to slow down racing thoughts, let go of negativity, and calm your mind and body. Studies have shown that mindfulness can effectively reduce stress, anxiety, and burnout. Numerous guided meditations and apps are available to help healthcare workers incorporate mindfulness into their daily routines.

5. Try Technology-based intervention

Technology is playing an increasingly important role in mental health care. A growing number of apps and online platforms are designed to support mental well-being. These tools can offer everything from self-guided therapy exercises to anonymous chat support with mental health professionals.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Explore different options and find what works best for you. Don't be afraid to experiment and combine various strategies 

How You Can Help: Nurse-Owned Brands that Support Mental Health

Taking care of your mental health shouldn't feel like a solo mission. It's encouraging to see a growing number of companies founded by nurses, dedicated to supporting the mental health of their colleagues. Here are a few:

  • Don't Clock Out is a community specifically focused on mental health support for nurses, nursing students, and nursing assistants. It provides a community for healthcare workers to share their stories, offer peer support, and advocate for better working conditions that promote mental well-being.  
  • Rekindled Nurse is dedicated to supporting and empowering nurses, particularly those facing challenges or considering leaving the profession. Rekindled Nurse prioritizes the well-being of nurses by offering educational events and training, a peer support community, and other resources  They understand the burnout, stress, and pressures that can lead nurses to leave the healthcare field.  Their goal is to help nurses find joy and fulfillment in their careers.
  • Togather is a platform designed to address burnout, racism, and inequities in healthcare. It aims to create a space where healthcare providers can collaborate and share resources to improve the healthcare system.

Building a culture of support starts with each individual.  By taking care of yourself, speaking up for your needs, and supporting your colleagues, you can contribute to a healthcare environment that prioritizes mental health.

If you need immediate support The Crisis Text Line is available by texting HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor 24/7. This service is free and confidential, and can be a valuable resource for anyone struggling with emotional distress. Additionally, If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. Trained counselors are available 24/7 to provide support and connect you with resources.

How Trusted Health Can Help

Your mental health is a journey, not a destination. Trusted Health is here to support you every step of the way. Join our community and explore our library of Health & Wellness blogs for additional tips on managing stress, building resilience, and creating a healthy work-life balance.

We understand that the healthcare field can cause damage to your mental health. We’re committed to providing resources and support to help healthcare workers thrive, not just survive.

Portia Wofford, LPN

Portia Wofford is an award-winning nurse, writer, and digital marketer. After dedicating her nursing career to creating content and solutions for employers that affected patient outcomes, these days, Portia empowers health businesses and nursing brands to grow their communities through engaging content that connects and converts. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter for her latest (@thewritenurse). As part of her mission to help nurses earn extra income, beyond the bedside, Portia teaches nurses how to get paid and published by showing them how to land their first paid freelance writing gig.

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