PTSD in Frontline Healthcare Workers

Biometric Telehealth for PTSD in Frontline Healthcare Workers

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common among veterans returning from war who experience flashbacks, nightmares, and extreme distress when reminded of past triggering events. Less well known is the incidence of PTSD among healthcare workers, especially those on the frontlines of a pandemic such as COVID-19.

Health professionals are somewhat prepared to deal with the psychological trauma of witnessing illness and death at close quarters. But the increasingly overwhelming conditions of a pandemic can leave many health providers unprepared for the mental health fallback. The need to make agonizing life-and-death decisions in a demanding and unpredictable environment, coupled with the fear of contracting the disease, can put healthcare workers at risk of developing PTSD. The PTSD often co-occurs with conditions such as chronic pain due to fibromyalgia, RSD, and CRPS, or work-related injuries.

PTSD manifests in many ways. Essentially, it is the persistence of traumatic thoughts and memories long after a stressful event has occurred. Effective treatment for PTSD
requires an interdisciplinary approach. The biopsychosocial model practiced at Institutes of Health is an evidence-based treatment modality for complex conditions like PTSD.

The Biometric Telehealth program is an innovative online solution that gives frontline healthcare workers access to PTSD treatment and pain treatment in their homes or workplace. In this article, we talk about the prevalence of PTSD in frontline healthcare workers and how biometric telehealth can be used as a tool for prevention and treatment.

Prevalence of PTSD in Healthcare Workers

One group of Canadian researchers has estimated that the prevalence of PTSD among healthcare providers is as high as 40 percent. 1 A study at the University of Colorado Hospital, a tertiary care trauma facility, found 18 percent of nurses met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD. 2 Results published in the Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation reported up to 48 percent of ICU nurses met the clinical criteria for PTSD. 3 In comparison, the incidence of PTSD in the general population in the United States is 8 to 10 percent. 2
Interestingly, an overwhelming majority (86 percent) of healthcare workers in the Colorado study had symptoms of burnout syndrome, a condition that occurs in response to workplace stressors and is characterized by physical and emotional exhaustion. Moreover, healthcare workers with PTSD often have other problems, such as chronic pain with depression, weight gain, sleep problems, or opioid dependence.
These statistics were reported under normal circumstances. Healthcare workers on the frontlines of a pandemic are under unimaginable duress. To lower the risk of spreading the infection to their families, many have socially isolated themselves. The fears of contracting the illness, combined with the stress of quarantine and unrelenting emotional exhaustion have increased the risk of PTSD in healthcare workers to an all- time high. If on-site treatment in a clinic is not possible due to various reasons, a telehealth platform can allow healthcare workers to access PTSD care remotely.

Consequences of PTSD

PTSD symptoms can make it very challenging for frontline healthcare workers to do their job. Some of the consequences of PTSD in health professionals include: 

  • Depression and anxiety 
  • Emotional numbing and avoidance 
  • Sleep disturbance (insomnia) 
  • Excessive alcohol use 
  • Suicidal ideation 
  • Chronic pain and opioid dependence 

Even as the pandemic wanes in the coming months, these symptoms will not necessarily subside. Some frontline workers may have persistent mild symptoms, while others can develop complex PTSD, which may require an on-site intensive biopsychosocial program, or alternative, treatment via an interdisciplinary biometric telehealth platform. 

Biopsychosocial Treatment for PTSD

To restore and sustain frontline healthcare workers, employers and organizations will need to be proactive in providing evidence-based care. This can help avoid workers’ compensation claims in the future. Effective care for PTSD can be accessed through a telehealth program.

At the Institutes of Health, our approach to PTSD treatment is modeled on an interdisciplinary biopsychosocial model. This model encompasses three key categories of PTSD treatment – biological (medications, exercise, sleep), psychological (emotions, behaviors, cognition), and social (family, work, healthcare). It is a multi-pronged approach that has proven outcomes in PTSD treatment, giving frontline health workers the highest chance of a return to optimum mental health. The focus is on self- management with the patient being an equal participant in the recovery process along with the team of providers. We offer these programs both on-site in our clinic and through our immersive biometric telehealth platform.

Biometric Telehealth:
A Holistic Approach to Online PTSD Treatment

During a raging pandemic, time and resources are both in short supply. Yet, frontline healthcare workers are in a precarious position, in urgent need of mental health care. Biometric telehealth is an innovative technology that can help healthcare workers with post-traumatic stress symptoms or chronic pain get the treatment they need in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Biometric telehealth is more than just a video consultation. It is a comprehensive remote platform that simulates the patient experience of being in a evidence-based on-site healing environment.. The platform offers several benefits, including:

• Easy access to specialist services.
• Time-saving (no need to visit the doctor’s office).
• Cost-saving (no need to travel to a clinic).
• Better continuity of care.
• Confidential and private treatment.

The IOH Biometric Telehealth platform permits the delivery of a comprehensive approach to PTSD. It includes psychophysiological interventions, medication management if needed, EEG-based neurofeedback for mindfulness, and ancillary treatments. The goal is to help frontline health professionals overcome fear, anxiety, depression, and feelings of powerlessness. The program teaches coping skills for the stressors related to a global health crisis. The emphasis is on self-care. This evidence- based PTSD treatment for frontline healthcare workers can be accessed conveniently and privately, irrespective of geographical location.

The Institutes of Health is an industry leader in Immersive Biometric Telehealth. We offer the full range of on-site and telehealth services for PTSD, chronic pain, medication management, sleep disturbances and brain injuries. Call us today to find out more about how our Biometric Telehealth platform can help you.

References:

1. https://hospitalnews.com/ptsd-in-healthcare-professionals/
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2919801/
3. https://www.jhltonline.org/article/S1053-2498(19)30218-9/fulltext