New Healthcare Laws Cause Added Stress to Healthcare Givers

Julie Shenkman
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The Affordable Care Act of 2010 changed the American health care system by requiring everyone to have health insurance or face penalties. One of the unintended consequences of the ACA includes added job stress for health care workers as the industry adjusts to new rules, payment paradigms and patient care initiatives.

Added pressure at the point of care created more pressure on nurses, clinicians and doctors to deliver quality care while reducing costs for patients. As such, health care workers may have difficulties managing job stress as they deal with patients. Although the health care industry needed to change or face mounting hurdles, clinicians may have worse physical and mental health than before due to rapid changes within the workplace.

A new video and survey entitled "Oxygen for Caregivers" outlines the problem health care workers face on a regular basis. More than 40 percent of trauma workers deal with physical assault at work. As of 2012 figures, nearly 45 percent of doctors suffer from burnout, while up to 37 percent could have clinical depression. As much as 64 percent of first responders experience severe emotional distress on the job due to incidents at work.

All of these figures add up to lower quality of care for patients since health care workers cannot perform their jobs adequately due to too much stress. The price for lower costs to citizens may create "compassion fatigue" among staffers, which is a direct result of the physical, emotional, mental and financial strain on people who exist at the front lines of health care.

Situations that have nothing to do with direct care can alter the perspectives of health care workers and add to stress. For instance, staffers may face tough decisions when managers ask them to do more with less. Larger turnover rates among team members may disrupt daily patterns of work. Patient advocacy may come in conflict with a health care system's policies.

A shortage of employees within the health care industry exacerbates the system since many nurses may feel underpaid and overworked. The World Health Organization advocates 1,000 nurses per 100,000 population. Unfortunately, the U.S. average comes in a 792 nurses per 100,000 people. Two states in particular — Texas and California — have some of the lowest rates of nurses per capita even though these states have high populations.

The answers include a more-robust support network for employees of health care systems. Leaders and executives must implement better feedback systems whereby staff can make suggestions, and managers should respond in kind. Systems should ease transitions and train staff to use coping skills during stressful situations. Each clinician must also have training that includes better self-care choices when it comes to an employee's health and well-being.

Everyone must help professional caregivers and health care workers at every level of a health care organization. Improving care for workers leads to higher quality of care of patients, which reduces stress on employees. As such, the chain continues to improve as the industry moves forward.

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at



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