By Sandy Baker
Addiction & Healthcare Workers
As the pandemic rages on, healthcare workers continue to face stress, the risk of burnout, and increasing temptation to turn to substances for relief. Healthcare workers are not immune to substance abuse and, in many ways, may be more likely to suffer from addiction than others due to high stress levels and access to prescription medications.
If you are a healthcare treatment center looking for ways to support the well-being of your staff or you have an addiction and need help, there are simple steps you can take now to make a difference.
Recognize the Risks
Studies indicate that a person experiencing a single stressful or traumatic event is more at risk of turning to substances for support and relief. This type of self-medication can happen in reaction to a single event. With two years and more of a pandemic, it is easy to see how people in the midst of it could be at risk for substance misuse.
Find Ways to Reduce Stress
Knowing that stress is a risk factor, health professionals can strive to improve their overall well-being and reduce stress as much as possible. That’s easier said than done, but here are some tips that may help.
- Cap the hours. Overtime hours are readily available, and the benefit of bonuses and high hourly wages may be tempting. However, overworking yourself puts you at a higher risk for stress and stress-induced use. Even if you plan to work more, cap the number of hours you’re putting into the job–and don’t hesitate to reduce those hours when you feel the stress building.
- Develop peer relationships. Turn to other healthcare workers you trust to communicate about the stress you’re feeling. Instead of masking your feelings with a smile or acting as if you are fine, create a relationship where you are open and honest with someone else in the field. It helps to have someone in the trenches with you who understands what you’re facing.
- Set boundaries. Another valuable step to reduce stress is to have boundaries. When you are at home and not on call, put your phone away. Avoid talking about work on social media or with friends. Devote your off time to yourself, your family, and other things that make you happy.
Tap Into Professional Help
You know the value of a person receiving mental health treatment and support when they need it. The same applies to you. When you start to feel the onset of stress and start thinking about using drugs or alcohol, schedule a consultation with a therapist. Some warning signs that it’s time to do this include:
- Thinking about or realizing how easy it could be to get the drugs you need to relax
- Feeling anxious when you’re around substances that you’ve used before
- Experiencing increasingly intense anxiety and wanting to relieve it through the use of substances
- Going to the bar after work and drinking significantly
- Isolating from friends or family who are important to you because you are focused on using
When you find stress increasing with sleepless nights and anxiety, it’s time to reach out to a therapist for support. Getting help for stress may help you avoid the onset of substance use disorder.
Care for Yourself as You Would a Patient
In a healthcare setting, it’s often necessary to show some extra compassion to those who are suffering, especially when they are unable to have family nearby. You may spend some extra time with a patient, talking with them and encouraging them. You may help them talk about their fears and communicate their anxieties. You want to make sure they sleep as well as possible and eat a meal they enjoy.
These are all things you can do for yourself. Provide yourself an opportunity to get enough sleep at night. Be sure you’re giving your body the most nutrient-dense food possible, even if fast food seems like the better option after a long shift.
Know When to Get Help
Don’t put yourself at risk. If you are thinking about using drugs or alcohol, seek out a treatment center right away. Our team at The Ranch at Dove Tree can offer you comfort, compassion, and support as you work through this difficult time. Whether you may benefit from outpatient treatment or long-term residential care, we have the resources to support you as a healthcare professional.
You matter more than the work you do. Seek out treatment if you’re feeling stressed and using alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. We can help you through this time–and help you protect your career in the process.