Welcome to Impact Factor, your weekly dose of commentary on a new medical study. I’m Dr F. Perry Wilson of the Yale School of Medicine.
If you run into a healthcare provider these days and ask, “How are you doing?” you’re likely to get a response like this one: “You know, hanging in there.” You smile and move on. But it may be time to go a step further. If you ask that next question — “No, really, how are you doing?” Well, you might need to carve out some time.
It’s been a rough few years for those of us in the healthcare professions. Our lives, dominated by COVID-related concerns at home, were equally dominated by COVID concerns at work. On the job, there were fewer and fewer of us around as exploitation and COVID-related stressors led doctors, nurses, and others to leave the profession entirely or take early retirement. Even now, I’m not sure we’ve recovered. Staffing in the hospitals is still a huge problem, and the persistence of impersonal meetings via teleconference — which not only prevent any sort of human connection but, audaciously, run from one into another without a break — robs us of even the subtle joy of walking from one hallway to another for 5 minutes of reflection before sitting down to view the next hastily cobbled together PowerPoint.