Medical Workers Just As Prone To Depression, Stress, And Obesity

Often we hold our health care workers to a higher standard than ourselves, assuming because they know better the cardiologist and pulmonologist won’t smoke, the orthopedic surgeon won’t sky dive, and a neurosurgeon always wears a helmet on a motorcycle or bike, because they are more informed of the risks that coincide with lifestyle behaviors. So how does it affect us as a patient when our health care provider is obese or morbidly overweight? Or they are visibly overwhelmed and exhausted? Would you be concerned about treatment from a doctor who doesn’t seem to practice what he/she preaches? If he/she were telling you to diet and exercise more when based on their plump appearance you assess they don’t? They are people too, dealing with stress and depression alike.

“There is strong evidence that shift work is related to a number of serious health conditions, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity,” says Frank Scheer PhD, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. We ignore or forget the fact that doctors, nurses, surgical techs, assistants, and other medical staff work incredibly long hours, vacillating shifts, and undergo years of expensive training that include lengthy clinical shifts. They juggle with patient care, insurance, legal concerns, hospital administration, repayment of medical loans, inconsistent sleep, paperwork, intern training, etc.

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“Hospital employees’ admission rates were 46 percent higher for obesity, 20 percent higher for depression and 12 percent higher for asthma compared to the general population. The problem seems counterintuitive since hospital workers are either health care professionals themselves or work in support positions and are surrounded by health care providers. They should at the very least be able to keep themselves healthy, right?”

It’s drawn enough attention that hospitals are trying to orchestrate wellness programs for their employees; offering incentives to speak with professionals about ways to manage stress, assessing their health risks, and undergoing screenings and blood work.

Credit: Photo by West Coast Surfer