Healthcare workers endured truly extenuating circumstances this past year, from personal protective equipment shortages to makeshift morgues, and the toll on their wellbeing is gradually becoming clear. In November 2020, a Yale School of Public Health survey of workers at 25 U.S. medical centers found that nearly a quarter of the 1,132 respondents had probable post-traumatic stress disorder.
"Healthcare workers have been thrust onto the front lines, exposed to a deadly virus daily," said Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of Mental Health America, in December. A survey conducted by the organization showed that 93 percent of healthcare workers were experiencing stress, and 86 percent were experiencing anxiety.
Stressed and exhausted, doctors and nurses were responsible for the majority of publicly reported drug diversion incidents in 2020. Download the 2021 Diversion Digest for valuable insights on the impact diversion has had on the healthcare industry.
A lot has happened in the few months since those findings were published. The majority of American adults have gotten shots, and over a million more every day are receiving their first dose. Even beleaguered healthcare workers "are now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel," an April 2021 analysis by KFF/The Washington Post found. Still, "there may be some longer term impacts on those who were at the forefront during this global pandemic," researchers said.
Of particular concern is the KFF/Washington Post finding that 16 percent of 1,327 frontline worker respondents said their alcohol or drug use increased due to COVID-19-related worry or stress. As some medical professionals turn to excessive alcohol consumption or drug use to manage pandemic-related mental health issues, a concerning potential ramification that could affect patient care quality and elevate organizational risk.
Coping with trauma
The combination of high stress among clinicians and easy access to powerful, addictive medications was a recipe for disaster even before the pandemic, and data from the recently published 2021 Protenus Drug Diversion Digest reflect that this remains an unfortunate reality...
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