A new report from Truven Health Analytics, an independent research and analysis firm, has shown that frontline healthcare workers are less likely to take care of themselves than the rest of us and, as a result, are more likely to get sick.
According to the report, which analyzed 740,000 hospital employees nationwide, doctors, nurses and administrators are more likely to be diagnosed with asthma, depression and obesity than the general population, and they made more trips to the emergency room for chronic conditions like congestive heart failure and hypertension. In addition, these employees spent 9 percent more on medical expenses and prescription drugs, and they were 5 percent more likely to be hospitalized. They were also less likely to get standard preventive tests for everything from high cholesterol to breast cancer.
Amit Sood, MD, associate professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and director of research and practice in the Mayo Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program, is not surprised by the report: “Many U.S. physicians are experiencing burnout,” he says, which puts the body on a path to health problems. “Healthcare workers are spending so much time providing patient care and handling related paperwork, there is little time for self-care.”
Healthcare workers can combat this trend by adopting small changes, like getting one extra hour of sleep each night, carving out more time for exercise, and dedicating quality time to spend with family and friends. “By enhancing their own health, doctors and nurses can counsel patients better,” says Sood. “And with better attention, the error rate goes down while quality of care goes up.”