Local News

PTSD Concerns For Health Care Workers

Posted April 24, 2020 2:04 p.m. EDT

Job related burnout in health care is estimated at 50 to 70%. Doctors and nurses at places like WakeMed and other hospitals are used to providing care, but now is a time many of them need care themselves, both mental and physical.

Studies estimate 15 to 20 percent of front line health care workers already meet criteria for post traumatic stress disorder. Now, add in the fight against coronavirus.

"It’s almost like a wartime situation, says Dr. Clark Gaither, medical director for the North Carolina Professionals Health Program. He recently wrote about the impact of work overload, a lack of control over whether there will be enough personal protective equipment and the detachment from colleagues and family. Dr.Gaither says it’s a big concern, "If their symptoms of burnout are increasing it can leave them bitter and angry and resentful."

There’s plenty of other uncertainty leading to anxiety, according to Dr. Nadia Charguia, the medical director of UNC Psychiatry Outpatient Services. "It’s very traumatic. What’s different about this trauma is that it’s not a trauma that has a clear end," says Dr. Charguia.

On the job, Dr. Charguia leads efforts to provide her team with counseling to cope with not only stress, but isolation from family and co-workers, "Providers that typically work in teams together are separated from one another. A lot of those points of contact, points of connection that automatically allow us to de-stress at times without even thinking are not available to us any longer."

One of the biggest challenges is working with professionals good at helping, but not always good at asking for help. Dr. Gaither says that’s an issue now and in the future, "Once the pressure is let down, once it’s relieved and we go back to some sort of normalcy, that’s when the full impact of what’s happened may weigh down on them. So, that’s when we worry about increased depression, increased thoughts of suicide.

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