Patient Safety – Medication Mistakes was the focus of the 2019 Hacking Health hackathon in Espirito Santo (Brazil). This is my third year as a volunteer with this movement. In previous years, I had the opportunity to participate in the discussion on the following topics:
– Prevention of chronic diseases;
– Public health lack of money or management?
– Challenges of an aging population
During these three years, I have participated in several events with health professionals (public, private, philanthropic), entrepreneurs, managers, designers, technology personnel, and famous makers. If you’ve never attended a Hacking Health event, I highly recommend it! Excellent ideas and prototypes arise and benefit the whole community.
Something caught my attention since the first edition I participated, no matter the environment (public health, private health, with and without structure). In all issues, the mental health of health professionals has surfaced. I have heard talks like:
“… It is useless having the most advanced technology if we are not motivated …”
“… As long as we are not treated with respect by our hierarchy, it is difficult always to be well to take care of our patients …”
“… Having 3 jobs and turning on duty can not decorate protocols …”
I am a psychologist with a specialization in mental health, and I have had the opportunity to develop my career in the public service (Family Health Program, Caps, Hospita gerall, etc.) and part in the private sector. And as it happened during a Hacking Health event, I pulled back memories and realized that this same discussion in the work environment is generally avoided.
The challenge of our 2019 hackathon is about reducing medication errors. And the obvious question must be asked:
What if health professionals’ mental health is correlated to medication errors?
And this question is international. In the US, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Survey (INQRI), nurses experience depression at twice the rate of the general public. Depression affects 9% of ordinary people, but 18% of nurses experience symptoms of depression.
Ironically, health professionals, for many reasons (fear of losing their job, fear that the team considers them unbalanced, fear of showing weakness, etc.) are slow to identify that they are not doing well mentally. They usually attribute discouragement, lack of motivation, or concentration to the fact that they are overwhelmed or lack resources in the work environment, or even lack of appreciation or recognition.
They invented a name for this: Burnout Syndrome
Translated literally means burned out completely, it is a generalized exhaustion.
In the mid-1970s, the first studies appeared in the United States, identifying “burnout” as a syndrome manifested by the exhaustion experienced by workers as a consequence of negative experiences at work. The symptoms are very similar to stress.
However, burnout is always related to a work complaint that may derive from chronic and prolonged stress. Stress is transient, and burnout is continual stress where one is more and more exhausted. Studies show that the psychological profile is of a professional who is often competitive or likes everything right, with a tendency to be a perfectionist, among others. After the illness is established, it is common for the professional to present a lack of involvement with work, chronic stress, insensitivity to others, irritability, and irony towards co-workers.
And what are companies doing to prevent this from happening?
Throughout the year, I hope that Hacking Health promotes conversational wheels and clinics with managers, specialists in the area of People Management for the exchange of successful experiences in this sense. How much damage may occur if we do not take any action at all? For example, by taking care of the mental health of the healthcare professionals, would this not have a direct effect on the quality of the patient’s care? And may reduce the hospitalization time? – which has a direct impact on healthcare costs.
Sooner or later (hopefully sooner) entities will have to have this debate. But we are talking about health of individuals and we should not delegate our health and well-being to others. Yes it is necessary to deal with the day to day and demands, but everything is crystal clear: To be sick and/or exhausted or be hospitalized a little does not matter, the world will continue to turn.
We need to be our #1 priority.
Health professionals need this mental health care, and many do not admit they need it because they are in the role of caregivers. Talk about their experiences, what they feel, the possible causes, to be able to take care of the other without harming the productivity of their team.
By failing to address the issue we put the patient’s life at risk, that of the professional, and we miss the opportunity to guide and improve on Mental Health besides reducing the stigma, prejudice, and discrimination that exists.
We have a long journey ahead and need to learn a lot because there is no immediate revenue, but everything starts with a simple action:
Start talking about it!
About the author of the Post:
Alessandra Fischer is a volunteer at Hacking Health Brasil and the first leader at the Santa Catarina chapter. 25 years of development of actions related to Public Health more specifically in Mental Health with passages by the Municipal Health Secretariat Joinville. Zerbini Foundation, SPDM, and Joinville Regional Hospital. In these places, he had the opportunity to develop several actions from the reception, therapeutic support to patients and relatives, brief therapy and coordination of therapeutic groups
Pictures by Gustavo RPS.