Who takes care of the caretakers?
One of the noblest and more important professions in the world is healthcare. Doctors, nurses, physicians and all other people who work to protect our health, cure our diseases and heal our wounds. We need them, and they do a great good by helping us all. All of their effort and work should be properly acknowledged, and it is their responsibility to learn and practise so they can become the best they can be at their job, for our sake and the sake of society. They need to train their abilities and be up to date with the latest discoveries on the medical sciences so they can provide the best care possible to all their patients. All of us have needed a doctor in the past, and we will need them again in the future. Healthcare professionals work every day so we can move on with our lives and have our suffering relieved.
Taking care of ill people is one of the most difficult tasks. It wears people off because it's very demanding, both physically and emotionally. There is little excuse to miss a call for help. When a patient is rushed into the hospital, doctors and nurses have to forget they're tired, or hungry, or just not in their best mood. Someone needs them and they have to be there. They have to run and do their best every time. They see people at their worst and more vulnerable, they deliver bad news and even see people die in front of them. They behold the effects of pain, fear and anguish. And they must endure and go on. And on. Every day.
If the institution where they work doesn't take proper care of them, healthcare professionals will eventually burn out and become deattatched to their patients. They won't provide the best care because they won't be in the best condition to do so - they might even become sick themselves, out of exhaustion, anxiety, depression... You name it.
Providing the best care
Preventive measures and adequate training should take place in order to protect caretakers from the consequences of their job. A whole healthcare risk management should be implemented, and sometimes the organization of the institution itself doesn't help. Healthcare providers, both from the public and private sphere, can become too bureaucratic and rigid with their schemes and procedures, and doctors sometimes feels they can't fight them. Not all institutions are built in a way that is best for their employees. And they should. Providing spaces for emotional expression and management, accompainment for professionals, enough days off and respect for personal needs of the staff are fundamental. Also, the staff should be monitored in order to detect early signs of alarm about something not being quite right. This should prevent personal breakdowns as well as preserve the quality of care of patients. It should be noted that asking the right questions is a part of the monitor's responsibility, so risk factors can be detected in time before the situation worsens.
These interventions and preventive measures have a great impact in the performance of the staff. They allow institutions to lower the risk of staff illness or mental disorders, and protects them from the stress and strong experiences they go through every day at their work.
How caretakers should proceed
Even if it is the institution's responsibility to protect the health and wellbeing of its own staff, both for the sake of the staff itself and the patients that directly benefit from their adequate performance, professionals themselves can do a lot to improve their working conditions. Sometimes, some of these actions can be in opposition with the way the institution itself is designed, but there are always gaps of freedom for doctors and other workers, and they can take advantage of them in order to protect their own wellbeing.
The staff should be trained in order to detect their own limitations as human beings. They should know when they are too tired, or too stressed, or too concerned about their patients. It is their job to be there, available, but it doesn't mean they don't have needs that should be adressed. Self-monitoring is important, especially since many health professionals have a caretaking vocation, so they are willing to make sacrifices - forget hunger, tiredness, longing for fun and leisure - for the sake of others. If they exceed their own limitations, they will pay the price and their own health will resent. Stress also lowers defenses, which makes health professionals more vulnerable to catching diseases from their own patients. Providing healthcare responsibly also means to take care of one's own health.