Resiliency training is a tool for human issues. We're dealing with structural issues. We don't need to become more resilient. We need to change the system.
Shireen Sakizadeh McConnell
Founder, Executive Director
The Covid-19 pandemic triggered a large-scale mental health trauma that was collectively experienced by the entire human race. Across the globe, healthcare professionals shouldered a large burden of this trauma. They garnered praise as "healthcare heroes" and were sent off to fight in a war against an invisible opponent with expectations of personal sacrifice in the absence of infrastructure. Despite their best efforts, they have witnessed death at volumes never-before-seen over an extended period of time - yielding high levels of psychological stress.
It's important to understand that even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare professionals experienced suicidality, completion of suicide, and substance use disorder at rates higher than any other profession. The population has always been vulnerable to trauma, exhaustion, and burnout due to the nature of the work. Structural and cultural factors have presented added stressors and obstacles to accessing tools that support wellness and healing. Healthcare professionals have long feared the consequences of accessing mental health services. These consequences are often punitive in nature and motivate professionals to essentially check off all the appropriate boxes to qualify for successful discharge. This not only minimizes their likelihood to achieve good mental health outcomes, but increases their risk of injury and death, and their patient's risk of injury and death.
Health systems and institutions have long approached these complex issues by mandating resiliency training modules in their annual employee education. The problem with resiliency training is the implication that (1) healthcare professionals lack resiliency, and (2) enhanced resiliency will negate burnout and the impact of sustained trauma. Resiliency training is a tool for human issues. We're dealing with structural issues. We don't need to become more resilient. We need to change the system.
Health systems and institutions witnessed spikes in burnout, suicide, and substance use. They responded by continuing to promote resiliency training, Employee Assistance Programs, and yoga classes. They offered pizza parties to show appreciation for staff. They utilized media to speak about the mental health of healthcare professionals, but failed to acknowledge their own contributions to systemic obstacles. This cognitive dissonance has led to an estimated 20% of healthcare workers to walk away from the profession. Recent studies have shown that nearly 48% of healthcare professionals who work in the ICU are currently considering leaving healthcare.
At MN Mental Health Advocates, we are dedicated to empowering healthcare professionals to advocate for meaningful change within their institutions and health systems to protect their mental health. We are also partnering with thought leaders, national organizations, and lawmakers to create systemic and cultural change within the healthcare profession and to remind the world that healthcare professionals are #HumansBeforeHeroes