Burnout and the burden of life-and-death decisions have driven some exhausted front-line staff to the edge. In this long-form piece by Financial Times writer India Ross, Dr. Wendy Dean lends her expertise as a psychiatrist and the framework of moral injury to contextualize the deep trauma facing healthcare workers today.
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The stress and moral suffering of the COVID pandemic has created a concurrent crisis in the mental health of healthcare professionals. Join the team at the Coalition for Compassionate Care for a presentation from Elizabeth Holman, PsyD, one of the Associates of our organization, on how to address this crisis and what tools individuals can use to mitigate moral distress and find resilience.
1 CEU available for nurses and social workers with registration.
The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply burdened mothers – perhaps more so than first anticipated or expected. Dr. Dean shares her perspective, one that holds the framework of moral injury: “what working moms are facing is not identical, but it’s similar, and a consequence of “our society’s decision to pursue profit at all cost.”
Originally used to describe what soldiers experience in wartime, moral injury in health care began to be applied to health care even before the pandemic, says Wendy Dean, MD, a psychiatrist and the president and co-founder of Moral Injury of Healthcare, a nonprofit devoted to reframe clinician distress as moral injury — and to work to improve the source of it, which she and others say is the health care system itself.
“We came onto the pandemic already with distress, and the pandemic hit on top — an acute layer of distress,” Dean says.
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.
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.
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“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.
During this pandemic, most people have been grateful for the courage of medical workers. We have heard about the physical demands and emotional burnout they have suffered; but far less about moral injury.
In this episode, Dr. Keith Corl, an emergency and critical care physician offers a personal and professional understanding of moral injury of physicians, both before and during COVID-19. Listen to Voice America: Beyond Burnout: The Moral Injury of Doctors below!
Clinicians wade into the breach of COVID-19 without sufficient protection, even as their pay is cut, their protests gagged, their employment threatened, and as they watch their colleagues and friends fall ill.
We mustn’t lose sight of how moral injury is in the fabric of this pandemic.
“It’s going to take weeks or months before people are really able to take a breath and start thinking about all they’ve seen, all they’ve experienced and to start processing it,” Dr. Wendy Dean says. “I firmly believe that the mental health surge is going to be significantly delayed from the viral surge.”