Stress harms staff ability to deal with disasters

Lack of motivation and increased levels of clinical staff stress could lead to hospitals shutting down during major incidents like a flood or earthquake, according to a study published in Procedia Engineering.

"Healthcare services in many countries across the world are under severe strain, which leaves little opportunity for staff to be trained in disaster resilience. Yet healthcare is among the most critical services in any country during and after a major incident has occurred,” said Nebil Achour, MSc, PhD, lead author and senior lecturer in healthcare management at Anglia Ruskin University. "Staff suffer from increasing workload and stricter performance measures with less flexibility. This has caused psychological and physical stress and makes them unable to respond to any further stress associated with major hazards.”

Led by researchers at Anglia Ruskin, the study examined global studies and found the capacity of clinical and non-clinical staff was severely limited in dealing with incidents like flood, earthquakes or other natural disasters by a high workload and levels of psychological stress.

Additional findings suggested that some staff are unmotivated and unattached to their workplace, minimizing their chances in taking initiative in an emergency scenario. They may even avoid coming into work. The study also found that only 21 percent of participants were completely satisfied with their job and workplace.

"Many staff members do not feel attached to their workplace and do not feel that they have enough flexibility to take the initiative and lead their own way. This in turn also makes them less motivated to learn the extra skills needed to deal with a catastrophic event,” said Achour. "Combined, these factors expose healthcare services to major risk of staff shortage and thus inoperability when a major hazard does strike."