Healthcare professionals are front liners when it comes to keeping people's health in check. Whether you are a doctor, a nurse or a pharmacist, it is your job to walk the talk. Unfortunately, we do suffer from occupational hazards due to burnout and stressful workloads. This puts us at an increased risk of developing these conditions:

1. Hypertension

Being in the healthcare field can be very stressful. We often face dissatisfied patients, uncooperative family members and pressure from the higher up. The effects of being in an unfriendly environment combined with an unhealthy diet can lead to hypertension amongst healthcare professionals. According to statistics, by 2025, there would be a high prevalence of hypertension in all regions in the world. Healthcare professionals should take preventive measures at an individual level as hypertension can lead to other serious health problems.

2. Obesity

There is no denying that as healthcare professionals, we have a hectic schedule and always seem to be running around; meeting datelines or attending to emergencies. This makes maintaining a healthy lifestyle a near impossible thing to do. When under pressure and dealing with stressful situations, it is easy for us to turn to fast food and over eat. The health effects of rotating shift work may also put us at risk of having irregular and unhealthy eating patterns. A simple diet and exercise plan can be very effective in preventing or managing obesity. Start your plan by doing something simple, go for a jog on your day off or reduce a portion of your food for each meal. The key is to be consistent.

3. Infection

Every hospital is well equipped to prevent serious infections from taking place. However, as we are on the forefront, being infected with flu and the common cold is very common. While flu is not life threatening, it can be very disturbing and easily transferred to others. Basic infection control procedures like proper hand washing, wearing a mask and keeping a clean work place should be followed religiously. Just like we advise our patients, we should also listen to our bodies and take a rest when needed.

4. Reduced sleep quality and insomnia

Sleep is very important to us as one third of our life is spent sleeping. Our body uses sleep as a reset button to refresh our systems. A research done in Madrid which was published in 2008 indicated that disturbed sleep cycle closely relates to burnout especially amongst primary care physicians. An unhealthy lifestyle and disturbed sleep cycle can lead to insomnia. Thus, better sleep quality should be one of our top concerns as it can increase our productivity and lower our susceptibility to infections.

5. Depression

Depression is difficult to recognise even amongst doctors. Although depression is not a major health problem among healthcare professionals, mental distress is a very common. Many doctors or nurses suffer from burnout leading to depression, if not mental distress. A competitive environment, harassment and belittlement from a higher up also contribute to this problem. Regardless of how bad their depression is, many do not seek treatment due to the stigma associated with it. A survey done with American surgeons in 2011, revealed that 1 in 12 respondents have had a suicidal tendency in the past 12 months, but only 26% sought professional help. In addition, half of the suicide attempts are related to depression. What makes it even more dangerous is that healthcare professionals are exposed to various means of suicide and have a higher percentage of success in their attempts.

One way or another, your own health should be your top priority. You owe it to yourself and the society. MIMS


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