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Poll: Emergency Physicians Hesitate to Seek Mental Health Treatment

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The results of a new poll suggest emergency physicians are avoiding mental health treatment, despite the stress of handling the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) polled 862 emergency physicians in early October. Eighty-seven percent of respondents said they feel more stress today than when the pandemic began, with 72% reporting feeling more burned out. Still, 73% reported there is stigma in their workplaces about seeking mental health treatment. Fifty-seven percent of respondents worry about professional reprisals for seeking such help.

“Physicians seeking mental health treatment in our current system are rightfully concerned about possibly losing their medical licenses or facing other professional setbacks,” ACEP President Mark Rosenberg, DO, MBA, FACEP, said in a statement. “The pandemic emphatically underscores our need to change the status quo when it comes to physicians’ mental health.”

In the upcoming December issue of ED Management, author Dorothy Brooks reports on a recent study of secondary traumatic stress (STS) in emergency nursing. STS results from exposure to others’ trauma. Symptoms fall into four categories: arousal, intrusion, negative connotations and mood, and avoidance. STS might negatively affect mood, relationships, quality of life, and patient care.

If left unaddressed, STS can drive emergency nurses to leave their profession. Investigators advise emergency nursing leaders to take the issue seriously, establish effective programming to address the problem, and encourage staff nurses not to ignore symptoms.