Today, nurses, physicians and frontline employees from the Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) gathered together to ask the community to show understanding, support and kindness to them as they do their best to care for patients during very challenging times.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, healthcare workers were hailed as frontline heroes and received a tremendous amount of active support from the community – here locally and across the nation,” said Avinash Kambhampati, DO, assistant medical director for MVHS Emergency Department. “Now, two years later, our healthcare workers are subject to increasing aggression and mistrust – after two exhausting, stressful years of being on the frontlines fighting COVID and caring for patients. And, they continue to come to work every day and care for our very sick patients – which is truly remarkable, particularly given the very challenging conditions and workforce shortages.”
The community’s stress and emotional toll from the pandemic is evident – and this may be driving some of the aggression toward healthcare employees. In fact, a recent report from the American Psychiatric Association found that eight out of 10 Americans said the pandemic has created significant stress in their life. And, as noted in a recent article in the Harvard Business Journal, healthcare providers and workers are “bearing the brunt of a much angrier, more frustrated, and weary bunch. Patients, their families, and other caregivers have little patience or tolerance, and their short fuses can explode on the very people trying to care for them.”
“At MVHS, we have been striving to acknowledge and understand the frustration, fear and stress that families and patients are facing during these trying times,” said Dr. Kambhampati. “I believe our staff have been going the extra mile with this in mind. They are doing all that they can to provide our community with the healthcare services it needs. Given workforce shortages and historic numbers of patients in our facilities, please be patient and understanding with us. It may take us longer to answer phones. You may wait longer in the Emergency Departments for non-urgent care. It may take longer to have an appointment scheduled. Just know, we are doing the best we possibly can and respect that.”
Dr. Kambhampati pointed out that there are clear signs in the lobbies of MVHS facilities that ask visitors to treat staff with respect, kindness and compassion, just as our staff is doing for their loved ones. “That’s why we’re all here today – to request, to plead frankly, that when you enter the doors of our healthcare facilities, you are kind, compassionate and respectful. We have seen a marked increase in rude, threatening and bullying of our staff members. And, while we recognize the importance of family members and friends to a patient’s healing process, they will be asked to leave our organization and escorted off the property by MVHS Security and/or Law Enforcement if they do not act appropriately.”
Disruptive behavior can directly harm healthcare workers’ well-being and mental health – and ultimately the delivery of high quality and safe care. “Our nurses, providers and staff members are exhausted and stressed. They are further worn down by the way they’ve been treated. In some cases, it’s making healthcare professionals consider whether they will stay in their chosen profession – this is not what we all want,” concluded Dr. Kambhampati.