Hard-pressed occupational health practitioners have been unable to access OH services to protect and support their own mental and physical health and wellbeing during the pandemic, research has suggested.
A study of 152 occupational health nurses carried out by OH physician Dr Satish Ranka has highlighted a lack of OH services support for OHNs looking after frontline healthcare workers and for those working within private and public sector organisations.
This lack of support meant many OH nurses were being left anxious, worried or feeling low, the study has concluded.
Nearly a third of respondents (32%) did not have access to OH services, particularly those participants in the independent (or private) sector.
In total, 39% of OHNs working in the independent sector did not have access to OH support. The situation was better in the NHS, although here still 13% did not have access to OH services.
In the public sector generally, nearly a quarter (24%) had no access to OH support, rising to 39% of those who worked across both the NHS and independent/private sectors.
Expanding access to OH
This was despite the fact the study also found significant numbers of OHNs were experiencing some form of anxiety and depression-related symptoms because of dealing with the stress and workload pressures of the pandemic.
Equally concerning was the finding that less than half of the OHNs who accessed OH services said they found it useful.
Yet, OHNs who did have access to OH services were found to be twice as less likely to develop depressive symptoms.
“The study findings suggest there may be a causal link between provision of OH services to OHNs and their mental wellbeing. Our study also highlights that access to OH for its own employees is important as it reduces the odds of development of mental health symptoms,” argued Dr Ranka.
It also illustrated the importance of expanding OH provision, ideally making access universal, he argued.
“OHNs working outside the NHS lack OH support and effort needs to be concentrated on improving OH access for OHNs.
“OHNs need OH support on planning evidence-based mental health interventions to avoid problems such as burnout, development of mood and anxiety disorders, PTSD and substance misuse to cope with and the aftermaths of the ongoing pandemic,” Dr Ranka added.
Dr Ranka’s full OHW+ CPD article can be accessed here.