The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in tremendous difficulties for healthcare workers and hospitals. Inadequate staff management and ineffective preventive measures caused rapid growth in the number of infected people worldwide. Hospital personnel had to work longer hours due to a staff shortage during this public health emergency, resulting in sleep disturbance and burnout among healthcare workers. This research aims to identify the consequences of insomnia for the human organism, determine the global prevalence of sleep problems among hospital workers during the pandemic, and propose administrative solutions for minimizing these issues. The exploration of these questions showed that insomnia causes multiple hormonal imbalances that lead to diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Furthermore, people with disturbed sleep are prone to develop depression and anxiety. The prevalence of insomnia among medical workers was found to be 40% during the pandemic worldwide. To manage these problems, introducing effective prevention of viral spread, supporting employees during quarantine, and improving the staff recruitment process to decrease hospital workload are needed.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated challenges and inadequacies of healthcare management worldwide. Inefficient pandemic control measures across the globe resulted in a surge in the number of cases and COVID-19-related deaths. Moreover, the increased workload in hospitals due to a high number of acute patients and shortage of nursing staff led to sleep deprivation and burnout among healthcare workers. Furthermore, the inability to have leisure and proper rest caused decreased job satisfaction among hospital staff. These issues arose because of inadequate management during the pandemic, which became a massive obstacle to delivering good patient care. The first question of this paper asks what the physiologic complications of insomnia among medical personnel during the pandemic are? The second research question is, what the global prevalence of severe sleep disturbance among healthcare workers is and what can be done to minimize this problem? This paper will discuss ways to increase management effectiveness in healthcare facilities, such as improving the hiring process and providing support to the staff during quarantine.
Research Question 1: Biological Consequences of Sleep Deprivation
Mental and physical well-being determines the job performance of healthcare workers. For example, according to Sagherian et al. (2020), night shifts, long working days, and several consecutive shits resulted in lethargy and fatigue among hospital staff involved in patient care. Adverse consequences of sleepiness and exhaustion among nurses resulted in increased medical errors, endangering patient health (Sagherian et al., 2020). A high level of burnout reduces nurses’ and doctors’ ability to concentrate and make appropriate decisions (Kim-Godwin et al., 2021). Furthermore, chronic insomnia was found to cause abnormal appetite, insulin resistance, weight gain, hypertension, and generalized fatigue (Kim-Godwin et al., 2021). Indeed, obesity and disturbed circadian rhythm is known as one of the primary causes of metabolic syndrome. Furthermore, increased body mass index (BMI) contributes to poor sleep quality, resulting in fatigue and lethargy due to sleep apnea. For example, every increase in the unit of BMI was associated with a 20% drop in sleep quality (Kim-Godwin et al., 2021). Hospital staff often works long shifts and compensates for the lack of sleep with an unhealthy diet and increased caffeine. Still, it can severely affect the health of medical personnel.
Research Question 2: Global Prevalence of Sleep Disturbance among Healthcare Workers
Although insomnia is a common problem among hospital staff involved in patient care, the prevalence of this issue increased significantly during the pandemic. For instance, more than 30% of American nurses reported having abnormal sleep patterns before COVID-19 (Sagherian et al., 2020). When the coronavirus crisis started, some Chinese hospitals published data about increased insomnia among nursing staff to 39% (Sagherian et al., 2020). Moreover, an online survey among 420 nurses in the United States revealed that 40% of the participants had mild to moderate insomnia, while 5% of study entrants had severe sleep problems (Sagherian et al., 2020). According to the meta-analysis study by Al Maqbali et al. (2021), the prevalence of insomnia among nurses during the pandemic ranged between 12% and 87%, with an average frequency of 43% among more than 10,000 participants worldwide (Al Maqbali et al., 2021). Furthermore, the same study revealed the prevalence of depression, anxiety, and stress of about 35-40% in the same cohort (Al Maqbali et al., 2021). It appears that disturbed sleep elevated the prevalence of other physical and mental health problems among healthcare workers, subsequently affecting their productivity and performance.
Causes of Increased Workload and Sleep Deprivation among Healthcare Workers
Two main reasons for increased hospital workload are poor staff management and incompetent governmental measures for viral spread prevention. For example, among 58 countries evaluated for the efficiency of public interventions to reduce transmission of the virus, 89.6% of them failed to demonstrate adequate and timely response (Ibrahim et al., 2020). It resulted in a high infection rate and an increase in the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals that were already deficient in staff and equipment. Moreover, 79% of these countries were found to utilize ineffective treatment for hospitalized patients with the complications of the infection (Ibrahim et al., 2020). The problem became exacerbated by the lack of adequate staffing in healthcare institutions. Specifically, lack of support to healthcare workers forced to stay in quarantine and increased overall workload caused burnout among hospital staff (Challener et al., 2021). An inefficient hospital workforce and the lack of proper safety measures during the pandemic is the sure way to jeopardize population health. Therefore, it is essential to develop methods for reducing the burden on medical personnel to allow them to have a work-life balance and time for self-care to lower medical errors.
Ways to Improve Staff Management in Hospitals
Improving management and administration should become the priority for hospitals. First of all, healthcare organizations ought to consider developing a support system for medical personnel that may be required to stay in quarantine during the pandemic (Challener et al., 2021). This measure will minimize the transmission of infection and preserve the overall health of the central workforce of hospitals (Challener et al., 2021). Second, the hiring process should be optimized to recruit more staff to reduce existing employees’ workload. Decreased work pressure can solve the issue of increased prevalence of insomnia, anxiety, depression, and other disorders associated with the disturbance of the circadian rhythm. Furthermore, it is crucial to provide appropriate on-site training for newly enrolled healthcare workers. Third, governments need to develop a more efficient system for response to public health emergencies and quick intervention of preventative programs to stop the spread of infection because the outcomes of the coronavirus crisis largely depend on prevention (Ibrahim et al., 2020). Overall, these three ways can help improve staff management in hospitals, increase job satisfaction, and improve employee performance.
To sum up, the ongoing coronavirus crisis caused an increased burden on healthcare institutions, resulting in long shifts and more duties for medical personnel. The first research question of this paper investigated the physiologic consequences of sleep disturbance among healthcare workers who work longer shifts during the pandemic. The sequelae of sleep disturbance include obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, anxiety, depression, and decreased concentration, resulting in an increased risk of medical errors that can negatively impact patient health. The second research question was focused on determining the prevalence of insomnia among hospital workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Research showed that 40% of medical professionals worldwide had sleep problems due to higher workload and longer shifts since the beginning of the pandemic. The possible solutions for this problem are recruiting more staff, developing a supporting system for employees during quarantine, and introducing effective preventive public health measures to minimize adverse effects of the pandemic on the healthcare system.
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