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Survey: Half of emergency room doctors close to burnout

Most of the affected people are in the North Estonian areas of Tallinn and Ida-Viru county.
Most of the affected people are in the North Estonian areas of Tallinn and Ida-Viru county. Source: (Sander Ilvest/Postimees/Scanpix)

A survey conducted at the North Estonia Medical Centre (PERH) showed that staff working in the emergency medicine department are often on the verge of a burnout. In the case of doctors, the number is close to 50 percent.

Professionals working in hospitals’ emergency medicine departments as well as ambulance medics are exposed to enormous stress due to what they have to witness every day. Although there is little doubt about the nature of the work, PERH conducted the survey to find out how serious the situation really is.

Clinical psychologist Marko Neeme, who conducted the research, explained that in comparison with hospitals in other countries, 50 percent of doctors being overworked still wasn’t the highest, with the statistic at 65 percent on average in the United States, for example.

Respondents were assured full anonymity. The result of the study showed several of the typical symptoms of a burnout. “Broadly speaking there are three: emotional exhaustion, reduced empathy in the sense that the medical professional doesn’t see their patients as human anymore, but rather as an object, a number, or a diagnosis, and the third one is a decrease of their subjectively perceived performance,” Neeme told ERR’s “Aktuaalne Kaamera” newscast.

PERH is currently analyzing the results of the survey to define what changes in the working environment could be made to help the employees. According to Neeme, the best way to counter a burnout is to reestablish a balance between work and family, and to take time off.

A particular source of stress is the current trend of increasing patient numbers in Estonian emergency rooms. According to doctor at PERH, Andrus Remmelgas, the average number of cases per day has risen from 160 seven years ago to 230-260.

“This growth is sizeable, and mainly comes from the number of people who turn to the emergency rooms themselves. The growth of patients brought in by ambulances is small,” Remmelgas said.

According to Arkadi Popov, who runs PERH’s ambulance center, their people are used to the quietly increasing workload. They worked in this stressful environment every day, doctors just had a hard job, Popov said. “We’d just like that things get resolved correctly,” he added, though he agrees that something needs to be done about the situation.

Tallinn’s hospitals and general practitioners are planning a campaign to explain to people when to turn to a hospital emergency room, and when to their general practitioner.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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