Why we must prioritize the well-being of emergency medicine providers
Emergency care clinics and emergency rooms look quite different today when compared to just a year ago. While there’s long been a shortage of emergency medicine doctors and nurses across the U.S., and particularly in rural areas, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation, significantly stressing an already overburden system.
Today, as emergency medicine responds to the new environment, healthcare is finding ways to take care of another wave of patients — namely the providers themselves.
Stressing the System
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that emergency department visits are down nationally by 42% because of patient COVID-19 fears, there remains an overall shortage of emergency medicine providers – and the gap is growing. By 2033, the Association of American Medical Colleges projects a shortfall of at least 139,000, a majority of which will be at hospitals and facilities located in rural areas. While retirement is the impetus for declining numbers, the system is being stretched even thinner by the pandemic.
As emergency rooms and clinics ramp up testing and treatment for COVID-19 patients, a growing number emergency medicine providers are leaving their positions because of burnout, depression, and mental health-related issues. Disappearing Doctors, a coalition started by FCB Health New York, estimates that three out of four doctors meet the criteria for burnout. And this year alone, 400 physicians are projected to succumb to suicide.
Source of the Struggle
According to this April 2020 article in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, physicians are battling emotional fatigue and burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic because of issues such as:
- A lack of resources, including personal protective equipment, ventilators, and beds
- Increased number of patients
- Inability to socialize to blow off steam
- Pressure to make critical decisions
- Increased personal risk
- Longer work hours
- Self-isolation from family and friends; loneliness
Making a Provider-Centric Move
In response to the skyrocketing number of emergency medical providers struggling with mental health issues, the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and many others issued a joint statement explaining the importance of prioritizing provider mental health and creating an environment where struggling doctors can feel empowered to seek help without fear of losing credentials. This need is exactly why Disappearing Doctors was created. The website offers a highly responsive community where doctors can share experiences, discuss issues, and seek assistance.
When a doctor needs a break, facilities can turn to locum tenens providers to ensure the continuation of patient care. With locum tenens, facilities can properly manage their staffing needs, supporting permanent providers with the peace of mind that they aren’t abandoning their responsibilities. Locum providers benefit too, not only from the satisfaction of helping where needed, but from flexible schedules, a work-life balance they can control, and gaining valuable experience working with different colleagues and settings.
“Locum tenens providers can step in as needed, fill staffing gaps, and help ease the stress and burden physicians may feel,” explained Christian Hall, Regional Vice President of Consilium Staffing. “Locums providers offer a flexible schedule and can be on site for a day, week, month – whatever is needed. They’re available across all specialties and are ready to work immediately.”
As the pandemic continues, the importance of giving providers grace and support has never been more critical. Taking care of the caregiver is a necessity – and the only way to ensure we can triumph over COVID-19.
Learn more about how Consilium supports emergency medicine providers.