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.
In this episode of Moral Matters, Drs. Simon Talbot and Wendy Dean discuss their own experiences with personal challenges that led them to develop the framework of moral injury.
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In a recent article by Pratihba Gopalakrishna, a new study is discussed that focuses on burnout and how commonplace it may be. However, Drs. Wendy Dean and Simon Talbot believe the definition of burnout needs to be reexamined.
“If we’re going to talk about the condition of burnout, then we need to be much more rigorous about applying a strict definition and measure so that everybody’s talking about the same thing using the same scale,” said Wendy Dean, a psychiatrist and the co-founder of the nonprofit organization Moral Injury of Healthcare. Dean was not involved in the new research.
Read the full article on STAT News.
In this piece entitled A Yoga Mat Won’t Fix Your Moral Injury by Ira Bedzow, PhD, moral injury is explored by Dr. Bedzow as a medical ethicist.
But people who suffer from moral injury are not slogging through endless tasks, and they are certainly not losing interest and motivation–they are hurting. And their hurt comes from their perceived inability to meet personal and professional expectations and the moral accountability they feel by their sense of failure.
Drs. Wendy Dean and Simon G. Talbot are highlighted as the experts leading the way on solutions for moral injury. As Dr. Bedzow notes, yoga mats and meditation are not longterm solutions for moral injury.
In this segment with NPR’s Here and Now, Dr. Wendy Dean is interviewed by Amanda Peacher on the toll the COVID-19 crisis is taking on front line staff in hospitals.
Some psychiatrists are even manning a hotline to help their fellow healthcare workers. Listen in via the link below.
In this most recent article from Drs. Dean and Talbot, they explore the concept of mindfulness as a diagnostic, rather than treatment for moral injury.
What would happen if clinicians flipped the script on mindfulness, and instead of using it to tolerate a broken system, used it to sharpen awareness of the challenges?
Explore this with the doctors in their latest piece published on KevinMD below.
As health systems address employee mental health, they’re finding women are most at-risk. Moral injury is front and center on the spectrum of harm.
For many of the nation’s physicians, doctoring has become an almost unrecognizable activity, and it started long before the COVID-19 crisis. Unfortunately, the doctors have no idea how to take care of themselves. Dr. Wendy Dean’s personal and professional stories are highlighted in this piece by Psychology Today’s Hara Marano.
Physicians took two hard hits in May 2019. The first: the WHO will include a more detailed description of burnout as an occupational phenomenon in the International Classification of Diseases-11. The second: physician burnout costs the healthcare system $4.6 billion each year.
This was originally published in the Journal of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine in April of 2020. Please contact us if you’d like a copy of the PDF.