In a study published in JMIR AI, researchers assessed anxiety and depression faced by healthcare workers (HCWs) in the United States during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Medical professionals are more vulnerable than the general population to mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. COVID-19 increased the stress and workload faced by HCWs further. As the pandemic surged, the number of patients exceeded available beds, and hospitals were forced to operate over capacity.
HCWs worked longer hours under adverse conditions, including equipment and resource shortages, which forced them to ration care and make difficult decisions.
As frontline workers, they were more exposed to the virus and often had limited access to masks and other protection. Like many others, they also lost the support of social and familial networks due to strict quarantine guidelines.
HCWs suffering from depression and anxiety are more likely to commit errors, inadvertently jeopardizing patient safety. Improving their well-being is vital to strengthening the healthcare system as a whole.
This calls for more research in order to gain a thorough understanding of the mental health challenges HCWs face and provide them with the support that they need. Such interventions will be instrumental in making the health system resilient to future pandemics and other disruptions.