PENNSYLVANIA, USA — COVID-19 has changed many aspects of life, including the average day of work.
However, two already high-stress industries are especially feeling the long-lasting effects of a global pandemic in year three.
"The last two years have been nothing like anyone is ever experienced, certainly not in healthcare and it’s really been quite exhausting." said Dr. Ridgely Salter, the Medical Director of WellSpan Health. "But our WellSpan team has really come to the the clinic the the hospital every day to take care of patients, and even though it’s been demanding they’ve really been tireless in providing excellent care of patients.
"It’s really put us to the test because patients have really been stressed, not only physically with a pandemic, but emotionally and that’s provided a lot of challenges for us."
In 2021, Americans saw heightened rates of burnout and stress, according to an American Psychological Association survey. That survey also points out that some occupations are more vulnerable to the effects of burnout -- like teachers and health care workers.
“We’ve known people in these occupations have always had higher rates of burnout, but it’s been so much harder to keep up with the demands during a pandemic in caretaking professions,” said Dr. Christina Maslach, a professor of psychology with the University of California Berkley.
"The research shows us is that when teachers are feeling burnt out, they take more sick time -- they retire at an early age -- which leaves us with kind of deficits in our staffing and that sort of thing. And when classes are not fully staffed, that puts extra pressure on those teachers that are here trying to do that work," said Dr. Laura Sharp, the Program Supervisor of Pupil Personnel Services at LIU12 in York.
Those professionals say, this stress could cause rippling effects through the community.
"It’s like a snowball, so the teacher stress levels impact the student stress levels. And parent stress levels impact the student stress levels - impact the teacher stress... we’re all interconnected." said Sharp.
"Let's face it, when we’re stressed we don’t act our best," Salter said. "And there’s times where those interactions can get, you know, pretty tough for our care teams to take care of folks who really upset. And it’s stressed us to the point of of as I mentioned before losing some folks.
"Some other things that have been really tough is the misinformation a lot of patients unfortunately have received, and it’s been tough to combat that with what we know each as evidence based medicine and that’s provided a conflict among patients and our care team that we hadn’t experienced a whole lot in the past."
While both leaders say funding and staffing remain the top priorities, to combat these issues, Sharp and Salter have suggestions that can be acted on immediately:
Grace and gratitude.
"I think we need to give kids a little bit of grace, I think we need to give teachers a little bit of grace, and we certainly need to give parents a little bit of grace." said Sharp. "I mean, we don't have a ton of grace in our society right now, right?"
"It's easy for us to talk about what's stressful, but really we should pause and take a moment to talk about what we're grateful for." said Salter.