Hospitals across the country are at or over capacity, and multiple factors are leading to hours-long wait times in the emergency department (ED) and the postponement of elective surgeries. The annual spike in respiratory illnesses such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), COVID-19, and influenza has increased patient intake, and continued hospital understaffing has decreased time efficiency. The Washington Post reports that the issue will likely become more pervasive in the coming months.
Increased emergencies during the holiday season have long been a fact of life for hospital providers. The cold weather carries with it a higher chance of illness, and the mingling of friends and family for celebration raises the likelihood of contagion. Individuals may abandon their diets during this season, disrupt regular eating habits, fail to follow their doctor’s treatment instructions, lose sleep, and overindulge in food or alcohol, all of which may contribute to an individual’s need for a trip to the hospital. In addition, the health and culture shifts of the past three years have further impacted the holiday ED overhaul.
We recently highlighted the importance of prioritizing mental wellness during a period of increased burnout among healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, burnout in the medical field has only worsened since September. More than half a million healthcare and social workers left medicine at the beginning of the fall, both highlighting the continued stress employees in these environments feel and compounding the pressure felt by those remaining in the workforce. Additionally, many professionals still working in the medical field are choosing to work in clinics and other environments with less demanding conditions than hospital EDs.
Regardless of their place of employment, healthcare workers across the country are also experiencing threats of verbal and physical violence from those who blame them for the poor experience and conditions. This has led to additional stress and caused more and more to consider leaving the profession. Anne Klibanski, the president and CEO of Mass General Brigham in Boston, told The Post, “This is not just an issue. This is a crisis.”
At the Point-of-Care Ultrasound (POCUS) Certification Academy™, our hearts go out to the many healthcare professionals struggling to meet demands this holiday season—and all year round. We recognize that every spare moment is precious and urge you in those times to take a deep breath and celebrate yourself for the countless people you help year after year.
This time of year, we, as an international community, place additional value on time spent with family, giving to those in need, and showing thanks for the blessings we encounter. For that reason, it is particularly important for us to highlight the additional labor these professionals are called upon to provide during the last months of the year. Not everyone will have the privilege of time off to celebrate or even pause. Our hearts are with you, and we pledge to do our part to keep ourselves and those around us as healthy as possible.
For those hoping to stay out of the ED this holiday season, a few simple steps can help protect your health and the health of your loved ones:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Take all of your prescribed medications.
- Don’t overindulge. Though the temptation is great, there’s no need to do so during your holiday parties and meals.
- Stay active. A 20-minute walk outside will help to moderate your blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Keeping ourselves as healthy as possible also lessens the burdens placed on hospital personnel. It may be small, but it is an opportunity to give back nonetheless.
Interested in learning more about the POCUS Certification Academy’s heart for medical professionals? Check out our Learning Library for additional information on how we work to help improve both the patient and clinician experience with POCUS.