The Ohio State Medical Association has announced it is launching a free, anonymous service to help health care workers statewide screen for mental and emotional health issues.
Brian Santin, a vascular surgeon and the association’s president, said Wednesday that the emotional toll laid on health care professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic has placed a heavy strain on the profession.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and Santin said the medical association’s new Well-Being CARE Service aims to help health care professionals normalize the conversation about mental and emotional health issues, empowering them to take action to get the support they need.
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“It should serve as no surprise that these past two years of the pandemic have taken a considerable emotional and mental toll on the doctors, nurses and pretty much anyone working in the health care system,” Santin said. “When health care workers are taken care of physically and mentally, we’re able to do what we do best — and that’s care for our patients.”
Doctors hit by burnout, depression amid COVID-19 pandemic
A survey of 13,000 doctors in 29 specialties about physician burnout and depression released in January by Medscape, a healthcare publication, found that the nation’s physicians were dealing with continuing COVID stress and other challenges. Those experiencing the most emotional and mental health issues have been those in fields of emergency medicine at 60% and critical care at 56%.
According to the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, 66% of nurses surveyed feel their experiences during the pandemic have caused them to consider leaving nursing. A staggering 92% of nurses surveyed said the pandemic has depleted nurses at their hospitals and, as a result, they believe their careers will be shorter than they intended.
The new Well-Being CARE service is free, confidential and available to all Ohio-licensed health care professionals, including students enrolled in health care training programs. The Ohio Physicians Health Program, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and The Physician Foundation have assisted in the development and operation of the service, the state medical association said.
Medical professionals can access the new service by going online to WellBeingCARE.org, where they can take a brief assessment for mental and emotional health, receive recommendations for mental health services in their community and have the option to privately connect with a licensed mental health professional.
The state medical association also is partnering with organizations throughout the state that employ, represent or communicate with health care professionals, to help spread the word about the importance of emotional and mental health and the new service. Throughout 2022, the association and partner organizations plan to host local events for health care workers to promote the availability of the service and have important conversations about health care providers and their well-being.
Santin said all Ohioans can support health care worker mental health awareness by encouraging those they know in the field to go to the website and receive a free, private screening.
Todd Baker, CEO of the state medical association, said the organization is viewing this as a grassroots effort within the profession to help their fellow health care professionals.
“When colleagues talk to colleagues in the health care setting, they’re very direct and have no problem connecting on things that relate to physical health,” Baker said. “Everyone knows someone who can take care of a physical problem. Where we see this helping is providing that on-ramp for mental health inspection.”
Cole Behrens is a reporter at The Columbus Dispatch covering public safety and breaking news. You can reach him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @Colebehr_report