Frontline healthcare and emergency service workers have been hailed as ‘heroes’ and ‘angels’ since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, this selfless badge of honour has come at an immense personal cost.
A national survey of healthcare workers during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic revealed over half (60%) of healthcare workers reported moral distress due to a lack of resources, while more than half (60%) felt that excluding family from seeing patients went against their values.
These triggers were linked to an increased risk of developing anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and burnout. Observing this vital workforce reach breaking point led to the development of Healthcare Heartbeat, a mental health and wellness charity that supports healthcare and emergency service workers.
Additionally, a parliamentary report on the mental health of first responders, emergency service workers and volunteers found the high occurrence of mental health disorders in these workers increases their risk of death by suicide.
CEO of Sana Health Group, Georgie Blundell, has spent the better part of a decade dedicating her career to the health system. After having specialised in the rehabilitation of clients with catastrophic brain and spinal injuries across Australia and Europe, Blundell now works in the private sector and is collaborating with an organisation that actively works towards providing better working environments for healthcare employees.
Blundell has partnered with Healthcare Heartbeat as a step towards encouraging better mental health for healthcare workers. In June, Blundell will be climbing Mont Blanc in the French Alps to raise much needed funds for the charity’s wellbeing services that include Mental Fitness and Personal Development Coaching, Meal Delivery Services, Retreats and Fitness Experiences, and Crisis Support.
“Having spent 10 years as a frontline healthcare worker, I know how important this workforce is to our community, and it’s been a really difficult few years for them. This is an important way that we could give back to nurses and emergency services workers and invest into their mental fitness,” Blundell said.
Katheryn Curnow facilitates Healthcare Heartbeat’s Reflect, Reset & Renew program and reveals she’s seen an increase in healthcare workers saying they feel overwhelmed, stretched and that they can’t ‘switch off’. Curnow reveals that it is not uncommon for this to be followed up with statements like “I’m fine” or referencing an approaching holiday that will make things better.
“We understand that healthcare workers and first responders have been working under challenging conditions for some time. Even though the worst of the COVID-19 constraints may have passed for many, resourcing continues to be an issue which compels the need – be it explicit or perceived – for available staff to work through scheduled breaks and frequently work overtime.”
“Our team at Healthcare Heartbeat are proud to have partnered with Sana Health Group to raise money that will go directly towards delivering initiatives that are essential in ensuring that healthcare workers remain physically and mentally healthy,” Curnow said.
Additionally, Healthcare Heartbeat aims to provide the next generation of healthcare and emergency services workers with preventative measures and tools that will help them long-term throughout their career development.
“Achieving a sustainable shift in wellbeing requires an intentional and integrated approach to circumvent years of ingrained habits and unhelpful ways of working. The compulsion to ‘push through’ is not sustainable and is not only detrimental to performance but a keyway to fast-track burnout,” Curnow added.
This International Nurses Day (12 May 2023), Sana Health Group and Healthcare Heartbeat are encouraging healthcare workers to make their health and wellbeing a priority – just as they do for every patient who comes under their watch. Despite the height of the pandemic seemingly far behind us, the long-term implications are still very real for nurses, doctors and first responders.
To donate or learn more about how Sana Health Group and Healthcare Heartbeat are raising funds for healthcare workers to receive better access to mental health and wellness support, head to healthcareheartbeat.org.au/fundraising/sana-health-group/