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This article highlights the vulnerability of healthcare workers to the cumulative emotional burden of frontline healthcare work. Exposure to work stress and trauma, coupled with other psychosocial hazards inherent to frontline healthcare work (for example increased workload intensity, inadequate rest breaks, long working hours, violence and aggression), may deplete workers’ emotional reserves and lead to stress, compassion fatigue, burnout and potentially more debilitating conditions such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress reactions. In the work context, the above translate to low morale, poor engagement, presenteeism, increased sickness absence and high staff turnover.
NHS organisations have an ethical obligation as well as a vested interest in promoting the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees. They should proactively embrace effective workplace based strategies for high-risk groups through modifying individual and organisational risk factors. This is achieved through raising awareness; empowering caregivers to self-care and master the art of resilience; creating healthier work demands; promoting peer and organisational support (e.g. Schwarz rounds); and facilitate early intervention for those affected through ready access to psychological support.