Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Outbreaks leave hospitals vulnerable to staff burnout

Written by By Frank Ching, CNN Hong Kong Choking tobacco smoke, smelling of disinfectant and loaded with chemicals, remains one of the first things most people see when they enter a hospital after a pandemic. But a growing number of hospitals in countries hit by recent outbreaks of serious infectious diseases are experimenting with ways to transform such environments into ideal wards where caregivers are not at risk

of burnout. One such project is the Golden Dragon Hospital in Tianjin, where smelly rag-clad staff scrub doctors and nurses down with a stainless steel, atom-splitting sponge (donated by Philips ). While innovative technology has always been a key element of public health care, the pandemic experience of reading about a deadly new disease and witnessing the terrified anguish of patients can be extremely isolating,

research shows. While the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) rates public health care as one of the world’s most valuable assets in coping with crises, the effects of events like SARS and H1N1 can still trigger job dissatisfaction. Recurring trauma in tackling a deadly disease “Primary infections pose an acute threat to a hospital’s medical and operating systems; superbugs such as MRSA can also cause

serious infection,” said Anna Cullen, of the Centre for International Health Research at York University, Toronto. “Faced with the threat of poor infection control, temporary or full staffing changes and a severely depleted medical workforce, hospitals must act quickly to stem the flow of people through their doors,” she said. But while hospitals and health departments tend to have plenty of staff to respond to the

need for extra medical personnel, Cullen cautioned that staff are not equipped to manage frequent high-level crises. Reasons for burnout A survey of nearly 2,000 hospital staff found that 70% experienced burnout. Additional research from Conrad and Hamblin Warshaw studied the after-effects of difficult situations on staff for 24 hours, and found that the extra stress often results in clinical decision making that is

less effective. “The same episodes of frustration and disruption in routine clinical practice also highlight the rapidly deteriorating psychological health of the medical profession,” said a report from the Vital Signs Trust for the Department of Health, London. With more volunteers expected to be called on to fight the next epidemic, nurses are viewed as an especially valuable asset, with figures from the WHO

showing nearly 80% of nurses globally will be affected by at least one pandemic. “Nurses have become victims of the rising cost of providing medical care and the unfamiliar nature of workplace accidents,” Cullen said. “Patients frequently do not have the information they require for treatment and can die before the correct decision is made. “For the thousands of time slots a day that these nurses spend on this line

of work, many people are at risk and yet they cannot make a positive difference to anyone,” she said. Does shade help? The same research found that the lighting in hospitals impacted staffing levels, reordering priorities with white light where UV light can make things easier, perhaps even healthy. “It may also be of benefit to me to wear my best shoes at all times so I can get the job done faster. It is estimated

that as much as 200 people are turning up to hospital for flu shots every day,” Cullen said. To combat staff fatigue, the Golden Dragon Hospital in Tianjin maintains shade at night and places comfy blankets on the floor for privacy. “We’ve been able to reduce its use by 28% in just 10 days,” a hospital representative said. The approach may save lives, said Francesca Fox-Evans, professor at Cardiff University, who

collaborated with Cullen on the study. “The prevalence of people with these conditions is greater in hospitals than the general population, and the cases are more dramatic. “For a significant percentage of patients, treatment is a matter of life and death. Given this, patient and staff safety can be decisive in the outcome of their recovery,” she said.

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