Anyone who has flown probably remembers the inflight instructions before takeoff. Particularly the portion that discusses placing your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others. Well, we can think of no better analogy than this when it comes to healthcare professionals getting the 12-Step recovery help they sometimes require.
Addiction is not an exclusive disease. It affects all people across all walks of life. Addiction affects the old, young, all genders and sexualities, blue collar, white collar, millionaire, and unemployed. Thus, addiction also affects those in the professional healthcare field. However, for those in the healthcare field, the stakes may be higher; the health and well-being of their guests can also be negatively affected.
Healthcare professionals often give most of themselves to their clients. Sometimes so much so that there is not much left for themselves. This is not only unfair, but it is also dangerous. For this reason, there must be an avenue by which healthcare professionals can also get the recovery support that they need. This support is available in the Twelve Steps. Healthcare professionals deserve to know that 12-Step programs are always available to them as well.
“Compassion Fatigue” and the Twelve Steps
It is not surprising that with the types of demands that healthcare professionals experience, they may often be the last to know that they have a problem. It is hard to be aware of a problem when they are busy assisting others with their own. However, this “compassion fatigue” must not be allowed to interfere with getting help.
The first step of a 12-Step program is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol [or substance] and that our lives had become unmanageable.” Focusing on the “unmanageability” aspect of Step One, it can be hard for those in the healthcare industry to accept this truth. However, healthcare professionals also deserve to know that “acceptance can be the answer” that they need in their most stressful situations.
It is also important to understand that healthcare workers are under more stress than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only reduced the number of healthcare professionals in the field (putting more strain on the individuals that have stayed), but it has also increased the potential for substance abuse.
According to the medical journal Addictive Behaviors, “Past pandemics have resulted in significant traumatic reactions among healthcare workers,” and “trauma symptoms have been found associated with substance use in healthcare workers, such as following a terror attack. Now, ”there is emerging evidence that many medical and non-medical health care workers will develop PTSD stemming from COVID-19-related experiences.” Addiction is a universal disease, especially for those busy saving others from a shared tragedy.
“Burnout,” Acceptance, and the Twelve Steps
The Second Step of the Twelve Steps is that we “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” This is difficult for many in the professional healthcare sphere. The reason for this is it takes a level of dedication, focus, and will to accomplish success at the professional level.
However, healthcare workers are only human. They are extraordinary humans, but that cannot get in the way of recovery. It is critical to accept their own “humanness” in order to accept help. A recovery center that focuses on the Twelve Steps can help with this.
According to the peer-reviewed article “Burnout in Healthcare Workers: Prevalence, Impact and Preventative Strategies,” “Approximately, one in three physicians is experiencing burnout at any given time. This may not only interfere with [their] own wellbeing but also with the quality of delivered care.” For those professionals struggling with addiction, they must know they are not alone.
Connecting to the Twelve Steps can be beneficial for those struggling with burnout in the healthcare trade. It can lead to taking life-saving action.
Advice, Action, and the Twelve Steps
The Third Step of the Twelve Steps reads, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” Many people get distracted by the “God” aspect of this step. This may be especially true with healthcare professionals, as they have chosen a profession in dedication to science. However, to get past the “God” component for a moment, the focus of this step is on action – “making a decision.”
Here are a few steps that a healthcare professional can take to help with burnout, trauma, and addiction:
Tell someone in close proximity: Simply opening up to another individual can help process what is going on.
Go online and investigate 12-Step recovery: There is plenty of material that can help clarify if there is something more severe going on. There is also a well-known self-assessment questionnaire that one can take.
Reach out to the local 12-Step community: There are often liaisons that deal directly with the healthcare community.
Contact a treatment center that has a direct focus on aiding healthcare professionals: High Watch Recovery has a long and storied history of helping those in the healthcare industry recover.
Growth and long-term recovery can happen for healthcare workers if they utilize the Twelve Steps. This is why it is critical to maintain a connection between 12-Step recovery and the healthcare industry.
Professionals Deserve Reciprocal Care
There is a saying in 12-Step recovery that goes, “Faith without works is dead.” This means that admittance and awareness are important, but they are ineffective without action. The 12th Step reads, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
Healthcare professionals have already dedicated their lives to carrying the message of wellness. Now they deserve to get well themselves because they are too important for all who benefit from their sacrifice to be overlooked.