Sep 5, 2021 - Health

Health care workers experience PTSD, trauma heightened by COVID

A nurse wipes away tears inside the Covid-19 unit of Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital in California.

A nurse wipes away tears inside the COVID-19 unit of Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital in California. Photo: Nic Coury/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Front-line health workers, including ICU staffers and nurses, have displayed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that has been heightened during the pandemic, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in the United States, largely driven by the Delta variant, may further increase the number of health workers experiencing symptoms of the disorder.

Between the lines: Before the pandemic, studies found that rates of PTSD in health workers varied from 10% to 50%, per Reuters.

  • About 5,000 U.S. physicians quit every two years due to burnout, according to Christine Sinsky, an American Medical Association vice president.
  • The suicide rate among doctors is twice that of the general public. Rates of suicidal thoughts among front-line health workers increased as they spent more time in COVID-related units, per Reuters.

What they're saying: "On the surface, a nurse at your local hospital will not look like a guy coming back from Afghanistan," Bessel van der Kolk told Reuters.

  • "But underneath it all, we have these core neurobiology-determined functions that are the same," he added.
  • "It keeps getting worse and worse. We are heading back to that place — that woke up those emotions again," said nurse Pascaline Muhindura, per Reuters.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

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