From advertisements to themed toys, healthcare workers seemed to take center stage at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Politicians and celebrities thanked them publicly for risking their lives, families banged pots and pans to show their gratitude, and many of us used social media to express our thanks.
While acknowledging essential and frontline workers is important, it is only the first step in making sure they get the pay and treatment they deserve. This article will walk you through the problems healthcare workers are facing and explain both why they deserve better, and how we can turn our gratitude into active solidarity.
Healthcare Workers and Their Struggle With PTSD
Healthcare workers keep us healthy, but what about their own health?Even before the pandemic, healthcare workers faced an immense amount of pressure to protect our society, and it is time we protect them as well. In the United States and all across the world, health care workers report struggling with post-traumatic stress symptoms, depression, and burnout. Yale School of Public Health recently surveyed thousands of health workers and their findings are worrisome;
- According to the study, healthcare workers feel abandoned by ineffective government support, medical skepticism, and working conditions which require them to spend sometimes weeks at a time away from their families.
The study suggests that one-quarter of all health care workers showed signs of PTSD, and around half of those surveyed reported abusing alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate. So how do we give healthcare workers the help they deserve? Solidarity goes beyond a social media post; it requires better pay, workplace protections, and accessible mental-health resources.
Hazard Pay and The Healthcare Workers It Helps Most
Healthcare workers aren’t just doctors. When you think about health care workers, the first people you think about are the doctors and the nurses. But what about the other frontline workers that make up the rest of the hospital staff, like housekeeping, maintenance crews, nursing assistants, and administrators? Like the doctors and nurses, these healthcare workers are risking their lives during the pandemic with even less access to the protective equipment and drastically lower wages.
- The vast majority of these essential workers are women, and they are disproportionately people of color. The median pay is just $13.48 an hour.
What is hazard pay? Hazard pay is defined as additional pay for workers who perform hazardous duties. Before the pandemic, it had been associated with military service, construction, or mining, but with the rise of coronavirus, it has also extended to healthcare workers. Hazard pard is particularly important for healthcare workers receiving lower wages.
As the saying goes, money can’t buy happiness. It can, however, immediately support healthcare workers and their families, and even improve their mental health. Studies have shown that direct cash payments have a direct positive impact on mental health, and data from the Census Bureau shows that the direct cash payments of the American Rescue Plan could also have a tangible impact on people’s mental health.
How Content Creators Can Support Healthcare Workers
Support the right to organize. Legislators, businesses, and workplaces need to take measures to help health care providers stay safe and healthy. Many health care workers are not unionized, and as a result, are overworked and forced to take on shifts that they do not get justly paid for.
- Studies suggest that health facilities with unions have better patient recovery rates and safer facilities For example, New York nursing homes with unionized workers reported having lower COVID-19 mortality rates than non unionized facilities.
Reduce the mental health stigma. Many health care providers suffer in silence with significant mental health challenges. Even before the pandemic, reports suggested 300-400 physicians took their lives annually and these numbers are most likely underrepresented due to a lack of systematic reporting.
By providing an accessible 24-hour emergency mental health hotline to healthcare workers, facilities could help their team get the support they need. Luckily, recent federal funding has been approved to support pediatric mental health services and can be seen as an example for all health care services.
Helping Healthcare Workers One Step At A Time
Safer and happier healthcare workers mean a better world for all of us. While this article only begins to scratch the surface of what solidarity looks like, it is a great starting point for addressing the current issues healthcare workers face and exploring how we can solve them. What are your thoughts on the current treatment of healthcare workers? Share your story with us at WeLearn, because together we learn.