Burnout and depression are still serious problems among physicians, especially amid COVID-19. More than 12,000 physicians told us how burnout has affected their relationships, career, and happiness. Dr. Wendy Dean helps frame this conversation with moral injury.
The collectivist spirit of sewing masks and applauding health care workers from the spring has given way to vitriolic politicization of basic public health measures like mask-wearing, said Wendy Dean, a physician who co-founded the nonprofit Moral Injury of Healthcare to highlight issues of clinician distress.
Wendy Dean, M.D., a psychiatrist and president and co-founder of Moral Injury of Healthcare, says that following the long period of rigorous training, focusing on independent, critical thinking with strict adherence to algorithms based on reimbursement policies
can be grating.
Beyond the big systemic hurdles that must be crossed to bring this issue under control, Dean recommends that physicians learn how the incentives are aligned at their health care institution.
Mending that internal rupture requires a deliberate effort to reassess our expectations and search for purpose as we await the post-pandemic era, says Dr. Wendy Dean.
“All of us have the need to feel normal,” she says. “But we’re continuing to demand as much of ourselves as we did before – to be the perfect parent, the perfect worker, the perfect student. People have to find a way to have forgiveness for themselves and recognize that they’re doing the very best they can.”
In advance of a white paper collaboration with Moral Injury of Healthcare and Array Architects and Design, this article highlights a pivot in design and architecture to clinician centered design.
In our latest piece for STAT News, Drs. Dean and Talbot examine how it is time for leaders of hospitals and health care systems to add another, deeper layer of support for their staff by speaking out publicly and collectively in defense of science, safety, and public health, even if it risks estranging patients and politicians.
What exactly is moral injury – and how do we address the continued challenges faced by healthcare workers?
Moral Injury: An erosion of a person’s moral framework that results from violation(s), often leading to one questioning their field of practice or work as trustworthy or safe. This can often be thought of as providers having highly conflicting allegiances between work demands and the Hippocratic Oath.
Finish reading this post on Forbes.com
Researchers are concerned that nurses working in a rapidly changing crisis like the pandemic can develop a psychological response called “moral injury.”
“Probably the biggest driver of burnout is unrecognized unintended moral injury.”
In parts of the country over the summer, nurses got some mental health respite when cases declined, said Dr. Wendy Dean.
In this episode, Chris McDonald from Nothing Left to Give interviews Moral Injury of Healthcare Associate Elizabeth Holman, PsyD who is the palliative care psychologist at a Hospital in Colorado where she also serves on the ethics consult service. She is the handler of facility dog Tootsie and her research has focused on human-animal interactions.
Elizabeth shares her journey through burnout and how she overcame it. She describes what moral injury is, when it occurs and how it impacts healthcare providers. She describes the differences between burnout and moral injury. She also discusses ways providers can move through it.
“The pandemic arrived to a healthcare system that’s already deeply in crisis,” said Wendy Dean, a psychiatrist and president of Moral Injury of Healthcare, a group that advocates for more sustainable medical workplaces. “All of the challenges that clinicians are facing prior to the pandemic are just highlighted, exacerbated, and added to.”
In this piece with Talkspace, Dr. Dean outlines some of the basics of moral injury prevention for individuals to take.
As always, our organization has resources available for organizations and individuals experiencing moral injury due to COVID-19.