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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Co-authored with Elena Perea, M.D., a psychiatrist and adjunct associate professor at the UNC School of Medicine.
The country of the United States is experiencing complex trauma. That trauma is silently influencing how we think, how we make decisions, and how we act in powerful ways that are predictable to experts in psychological trauma, but often obscure to those in the midst of it. Drs. Dean and Perea explain how this dynamic occurs and how to best address the challenges that accompany it. The world is in deep trauma due to COVID-19.
St Andrew’s Healthcare and the British Psychological Society are delighted to be jointly hosting a one day conference to bring together health professionals and the leading researchers in this field to explore conceptual and clinical issues relating to Moral Injury.
Moral injury has predominantly been explored in military populations, although more recently its relevance to past and currently serving police, paramedics, healthcare practitioners, veterinary practitioners, journalists and teachers has been explored. Dr. Wendy Dean will present on her foundational work with moral injury.
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.
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.
Drs. Dean and Talbot will present on moral injury at SUNY Downstate on December 2, 2020 at 11am.
The event will be held virtually. The doctors will present for 30 minutes and have 30 minutes of Q&A.
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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.
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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.