Stress on top of stress: Tips for managing PTSD for healthcare providers
Events such as the May 14 grocery story shooting in Buffalo, New York, and the May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, can be triggering for anyone in healthcare—particularly for anyone who has been on the job for any mass casualty event.
Especially after the two long years of dealing with the pandemic—and because of the high number of pediatric patients.
Last year, Patient Safety Monitor Journal editor Brian Ward talked to Barbara C. Burt, Psy.D., program chair for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Phoenix, about post-traumatic stress disorder in healthcare.
Burt noted that healthcare providers can develop PTSD secondhand from close contact with people who have undergone trauma and find themselves working in the aftermath of terrible disasters. These providers often feel it’s their job to push aside their own issues for the patient, says Barbara C. Burt, Psy.D., program chair for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Phoenix.
In such times, Burt said, it’s important for to have greater awareness that their instinct to “shove my feelings and needs aside, and they put all that stuff on hold until later,” until they can re-regulate might not be possible.
Among some of the steps for healthcare professionals, said Burt:
- Take a break from social media and reading stories about the stressors.
- Take time to unwind, which is hard for many providers. “Professionals are not very good at noticing [they need this] or giving that to themselves,” she said. Go into nature, if possible, or think about a positive memory at the beach or some other kind of vacation. “Remember emotionally and physically positive things. And that becomes a way to give yourself space, to have a break.”
- Physically take care of your body. “[Providers] are good at preaching it, but we are often not good at doing it ourselves.” Light fitness, breathing exercises, medication, yoga, eating, sleeping and other kinds of rest let the brain relax.
- Sleep is also important. “Sleeping has a huge restorative effect, but people are consistently short-changing their regulating systems. Those are the things that help people better weather the storm when they’re doing bad.”
- Connect with others—family or friends, or colleagues who can support the idea that the provider is not alone.
Read the full Q&A here.
And here are some PTSD resources:
- Riverside 24/7 Mental Health Urgent Care (951) 509-2499
- Riverside County’s urgent care staff provide mental health screening and assessment services and medications to address the needs of those in crisis in a safe, efficient, trauma-informed, and least-restrictive setting.
- Helpline: 24 Hour Crisis/Suicide Intervention (951) 686-HELP (4357)
- The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis/suicide intervention service. Operated by highly trained volunteers, the line is open 24/7.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800) 273-TALK (8255)
- By calling, you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area 24/7.
- Spanish line: (888) 628-9454
- TTY: (800) 799-4TTY (4889)
- Veterans Crisis Line (800) 273-8255; press 1
- The Veterans Crisis Line is a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) resource that connects veterans in crisis or their families and friends with qualified, caring VA professionals.