By Bernard Freeman
Pandemic’s Toll on Workers
Now well into the second year of the pandemic, many frontline health care workers are feeling the psychological effects of month after month of battling COVID-19.
The CDC says that caring for others during the pandemic can lead to stress, fear and other strong emotions that can affect your well-being, your job and even the well-being of your friends and family outside of work.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Stress
The first step in fighting stress is to recognize the symptoms. The CDC says to look for:
- Feeling irritation, anger or denial.
- Feeling uncertain, nervous or anxious.
- Feeling helpless or powerless.
- Lacking motivation.
- Feeling tired, overwhelmed or burned out.
- Feeling sad or depressed.
- Having trouble sleeping.
- Having trouble with concentration.
Frontline workers may even experience clinically significant stress or impairment, including acute stress disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or secondary traumatic stress. Compassion fatigue and burnout are also real workplace issues for pandemic workers right now.
How to Cope
COVID-19 isn’t going away, so it’s important to recognize the signs and get help early. The CDC suggests keeping lines of communications open with coworkers, supervisors and other health care employees about job stress. Talk about how the pandemic is affecting your work and identify factors that cause stress and how you can solve them. Ask about accessing mental health resources in your workplace.
Recognize also that you and your colleagues are performing a crucial role in fighting the pandemic. The rest of us couldn’t do it without you and you are doing the best you can with the resources you have available. To help you feel more in control, try to keep a consistent daily routine when you can with adequate sleep and healthy meals. Physical activity is also important, as are taking frequent breaks from the news, including social media. Be wary of misusing alcohol or other drugs, including prescriptions, and if you feel like you need help, ask for it.
For Friends and Family
If you see someone in your life that shows the signs and you think they may need help, here are some resources for you.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, (800) 273-8255 or (888) 628-9454 for Spanish.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline, (800) 799-7233 or (800) 787-3224 for TTY.
Disaster Distress Helpline, (800) 985-5990, call or text.
Health care jobs are expected to grow 16% from 2020 to 2030, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says, and that’s much faster than the growth rate for other professions.
The projected growth comes from an aging U.S. population and a greater demand for health care services.
Here are some health care occupations that are beating the average growth rate, according to the BLS.
The projected growth rate for nurse practitioners is an astronomical 52%. Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses that are trained to assess patient needs, order and interpret diagnostic and lab tests, diagnose disease, and formulate and prescribe treatment plans. They typically have more training and certifications than your average registered nurse, but less so than a doctor.
Occupational Therapy Assistants
Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover and improve as well as maintain the skills needed for daily life. The growth rate for this field is 34%, much faster than average.
These specialized medical professionals prevent, diagnose and treat muscle and bone injuries and illnesses, usually sustained during sports. Many of them work in educational settings, such as at colleges and universities, but some are also employed in fitness centers or for professional sports teams. The growth rate for this job is 23%.
This is another advanced field — typically requiring at least a master’s degree, that has a huge projected growth rate of 26%.
Genetic counselors assess individual or family risk for a variety of inherited conditions and work in university medical centers, hospitals, labs and more.
Orthotists and Prosthetists
These specialists design and fabricate medical supportive devices and ensure their proper fit. You’ll need both a master’s degree and certification.
Working in a Pharmacy
Pharmacists do far more than just count the pills out. Working in a pharmacy is a specialized career that provides easily accessible patient care.
For many patients, the pharmacist, pharmacy technician or other employee may be the health care professional with whom they spend the most time.
These are highly trained health professionals with an in-depth knowledge of pharmaceutical products and their uses. They can fill medication prescriptions from doctors and may discuss medical alternatives and treatment plans. In some states, they can administer vaccines and prescribe medications for routine illnesses. They maintain records and stock medications to fill their patients’ needs.
Becoming a pharmacist requires a doctoral or professional degree, usually a doctor of pharmacy degree.
Pharmacy technicians work under a licensed pharmacist and help manage the pharmacy. They may order medications, keep the shelves clean and fill prescriptions in the proper dosages. Technicians also check for allergies and food and drug interactions. They may suggest over-the-counter medications for some patient ailments.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the job requires at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Many pharmacy technicians work part time, the bureau says.
These health care workers help manage the pharmacy by doing regular administrative tasks such as preparing audits and ordering office supplies.
They may also keep employee records and run background checks as necessary and conduct safety training and compliance checks.
Pharmacologists work with pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and other organizations to treat diseases. These health care professionals often collaborate with scientists in clinical programs to develop new medicines. They can study medicines and data about patients to formulate new treatments.
Northeastern University says that most pharmacologists go on to be bench scientists at biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. They may also work as professors and researchers at universities or pharmaceutical companies.
Travel nursing, where nurses sign on to work at hospitals around the country or region, can be a fun and exciting way to see the country and get paid to do it. It’s not for everyone, however.
Keep reading to learn more about travel nursing and if it may be a good fit for you.
Travel nurses are needed everywhere. If you have kept up your qualifications, there’s likely a place for you somewhere in the travel nursing arena. You can use travel nursing to build an impressive resume, spend time in different parts of the country, visit distant family and friends or try out potential employers or cities to see if they’re right for you.
Travel nursing also typically pays better than regular nursing and comes with generally flexible schedules. In addition to a salary, travel nurses might also receive bonuses, housing allowances and other reimbursements.
All that seeing other parts of the country comes with moving around a lot. That can put a strain on relationships and makes raising a family difficult. And if you’re a person who values routine, all those flexible schedules can be quick to put you out of sorts.
Travel nursing positions often typically lack paid time off, too, and may lack other benefits that full-time jobs offer, like types of retirement or health insurance. Travel nurses may also lack seniority at their assignments or get a poor perception from the permanent nursing staff. If you’re prone to loneliness or homesickness, this may also not be the gig for you. The typical contract can last up to three months.
Questions to Ask
Before you get started looking for a travel nursing opportunity, here are some questions to ask potential employers:
- Could there be an opportunity to become permanent staff at a hospital?
- Will any reimbursements for travel include potential wear and tear on my vehicle?
- How long will my contract be for? Are contracts ever extended? How will I find new positions?
- How will pre-employment paperwork be handled?
- How are contract cancellations handled?
- How will I handle multiple state licenses?
- How will I file my taxes?