Stress in the Medical Field: From Burnout to PTSD, What to Expect and How CMEs Training Helps

A recent survey revealed that medical personnel may be the most stressed-out employees in the nation, topping even retail workers. In all, the survey questioned 3,211 employees across various industries. When pressed about their anxiety and stress levels, 69% of healthcare workers admitted to feeling stressed at work. Comparatively, only 63% of retail employees felt that way. Whether you’re an EMT, nurse, paramedic or any other pre-hospital staff, you know this burden all too well. Though rewarding, the job can take its toll on your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Today, we’re taking a deeper look at stress in the medical field, and how CMEs training can help you focus and overcome the strain. Ready to learn more? Let’s get started.

Low Pay Related to Stress


A recent report listed EMTs as one of the top-10 most stressful jobs in the nation. It also revealed that the median salary for this professional was $30,168. Conversely, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for a typical American worker is $44,564 per year. With an incredible amount of pressure and a salary nearly $15,000 lower than the nationwide average, it’s not difficult for EMTs and related personnel to feel stressed. In addition to their on-the-scene activity, these experts also have to deal with related issues including scheduling conflicts, shift work and long hours, which can take a toll on their personal and professional relationships.

Constant Exposure to Trauma


Nurses, paramedics and EMTs alike are exposed to violent and traumatic events on a daily basis. They’re also familiar with seeing death up-close and personal. As such, it comes as no surprise that those in this field often suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One recent study of university hospital nurses found that 22% had symptoms of PTSD and 18% met the criteria for the condition. Moreover, a staggering 86% met the criteria for EMT burnout syndrome. In short, this is a state of full-body unrest. It’s emotional, physical and mental exhaustion triggered by periods of high stress. The calls that paramedics receive aren’t the conference room type. Rather, they’re sending them to scenes filled with more shock and anguish than most can imagine. Over time, this causes stress to build up and spill over.

High-Stakes Conditions


When office workers are called in for a project, their reputation is on the line. Yet, it’s unlikely that anyone will die if a report isn’t turned in on time. On the other hand, pre-hospital professionals are often the first ones on the scene of a life-threatening emergency. That forces them to act fast, scanning through all the knowledge they’ve obtained throughout years of training. From cardiac arrests and car crashes to mental health emergencies and childbirth, they’re working within environments that don’t allow them to make a wrong move or decision. This heightens stress and anxiety levels, and the effects last long after the call is complete.

Fluctuating Adrenaline Levels


If you were to ask a group of medical professionals why they do what they do, most of them would tell you its a gratifying position. Being able to save lives on a daily basis is a badge of honor that not everyone can wear. Yet, as soon as a call comes in, these experts go into a three-stage process of stress. Between each one, their adrenaline levels are spiking and dipping. Here’s what to expect.

Alarm Phase

This occurs right after a phone call. A paramedic’s adrenaline kicks into full gear and he’s out the door, ready to respond. It’s not unlike the rush that parents get when their children are hurt. It’s a fear-induced response that drives quick action.

Resistance Phase

As the name implies, this is the phase of stress when adrenaline levels out, but the stressors don’t subside. Anyone who’s ever worked late into the night, pushing against drooping eyelids, knows this feeling. Paramedics and related personnel feel it too. Only, the conditions are more intense and the stakes are higher.

Exhaustion Phase

Then, adrenaline dips to its lowest point. Our bodies conk out and we’re drained all over. Pre-hospital employees feel this way, too, and often have to keep going regardless.

How CMEs Training Can Help


There will always be emergency calls and high-pressure situations for nurses, paramedics, and EMTs to deal with. Yet, being as prepared as possible can help. When they know how to respond, what steps to take, who to contact and how to follow-up, it takes away the fear of inadequacy. In this way, Continuing Medical Education and Training (CMEs Training) is a must-do. As new skills and data become available, first responders can take these courses to hone their talents, explore their craft and expand their resume. This way, they’re always up-to-date on the latest practices and procedures, equipped to handle any emergency that comes their way. The best part? There are programs available that provide this training in a stress-free environment. While instructor-led courses are available, there’s a growing trend toward making the coursework available online, so busy professionals don’t have to make the difficult choice between work, school, and family.

Mitigating Stress in the Medical Field


We owe our lives to the medical professionals who keep us safe, even when they’re dealing with a host of issues themselves. Stress in the medical field is a prevalent concern, but it’s not an insurmountable one. Helping nurses, EMTs, paramedics, and related employees keep up with their education while growing their career is our chief concern. We provide a range of in-person, online and blended curriculum’s that cater to the medical community. From CPR and first-aid to pain management and critical care transport, we cover it all.

There are ways to cope with stress according to Dr. James Kraut, a licensed Psychologist, in South Florida, “There is a short meditation practice you can do. The more often you do it the better, but once a day for 10-15 minutes is great. Sit in a comfortable position, either on a cushion or chair. Begin to breathe slow, long, deep breaths through the nose. Allow your breath, as you become aware of it, to take you into the present moment. Let everything from the past that is haunting you slip away if you can and keep all predictions about the future out of your head as well. The past can no longer be accessed and we never know what the future will be until it slips into the present. You need not worry if thoughts begin to bubble up. It happens to every meditator. Just gently notice them and turn back to the breath. 
Once you have slowed yourself down and brought yourself into the present moment, think back to the incident that has affected you. Consciously keep your breath slow and deep, which allows calming neurotransmitters to continue to relax you. Pull your awareness back as if you are observing yourself experience the traumatic event. Bring comfort to yourself, like you are your own loving parent, infusing compassion into the situation. Soothe the part of you that was traumatized and discourage yourself from feeling any emotion other than gratitude. Appreciate that you had the opportunity to try to help. Remind yourself that we cannot control the things we face in life, or the outcomes of events that involve us; we can only bring our best to the situations life brings to us. Reassure yourself that you did your best. If it was a particularly traumatic event, you may want to consider talk to a professional to take this process deeper. (*This exercise should in no way replace any counseling or therapy already involved in or planning on being involved in.)
Again, helping nurses, EMTs, paramedics, and related employees keep up with their education while growing their career is our chief concern and we cover it all.
Contact us today for more information and let us take the load off your shoulders, one course at a time.
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