Are our Healthcare Workers Healthy?

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In Malaysia, there are questions of whether or not the doctors and nurses who care for patients are healthy themselves. One surgeon, due to stress at work, has gained 23 kg since becoming a doctor and is now borderline hypertensive. Doctors need to put in long hours and have few breaks in their job—breaks in which they could exercise or even rest.

Doctors who nighttime shift work seem to suffer the most. More than half of all resident doctors have indicated that they have worked with flu-like symptoms and about 16 percent or more have worked at least three times in the last year while ill.

Another research study indicated that doctors are often working while extremely fatigued. Not only is this stressful on the individual but they make more mistakes when tired than when well rested. Stress was higher among physicians when compared to other types of professionals.

Those medical professionals that showed the highest stress levels occurred among radiographers. Nurses and laboratory technologists were the second and third more stressed, respectively. Researchers were considerably more stressed than those who saw patients. While the job type had a great deal to do with who got stress and who didn’t, all health professionals suffered from a lack of health and wellbeing.

Many doctors find that the first few years of their job were the most stressful because of a lack of exercise, lack of sleep and skipping meals, eating more when they did eat. It helped to have a partner who was also in the health industry. Having kids seemed to reduce the stress as well. High degrees of discipline and work ethics are necessary to keeping stress levels down.

The Health Ministry in Malaysia is just beginning to react to workplace stress and has started a program to create an increasingly healthy workplace for healthcare workers. It wants to screen health professionals for medical conditions and to treat those conditions as early as possible. The prevalence of non communicable diseases in Malaysia is increasing and that includes health professionals. The program will help manage stress in the workplace and includes recreational, motivational and educational sessions for the advancement of good health.

Counselors are necessary for some healthcare professionals to learn how to live their lives better and to learn how to reduce stress. They also have used the buddy system so that professionals can train their untrained colleagues in stress reduction. Policies to include healthy eating at meetings, in cafeterias and in vending machine are designed to improve eating habits among health professionals.