Stress and burnout plagues nurses across America. Due to this ongoing issue, nurses are resigning in record-breaking numbers, with turnover rates ranging from 20% to 30%, as reported by the health and medicine publication Stat News.
Alongside the raw turnover we’ve seen in the industry, increased workloads have left 50% of nurses suffering from workplace burnout. And the same goes for physicians. In an article on physician burnout published by the telemedicine network Wheel which was designed specifically for healthcare providers, it was revealed that 33% of today’s physicians are experiencing the condition. Among them, urologists, neurologists, nephrologists, and endocrinologists face the highest risk of stress.
For healthcare professionals to maintain personal wellness and work efficiently, they need to find strategies that help them improve their physical and mental health and reduce stress. And while there are numerous possible solutions, one interesting strategy is to practice yoga. Through yoga, healthcare professionals can improve stress resilience, prevent disease and injury, and improve overall health.
Below, we’ll expand on the many benefits for healthcare workers who choose to practice yoga.
Healthcare professionals work in fast-paced environments, where the stakes are often life or death. And when the COVID-19 pandemic began, the number of patients that needed care increased dramatically. Ballooning turnover rates on top of increasing patient numbers meant that many of the professionals who remained in the industry needed to take on more work than they could handle. As a result, a line of work that is already inherently stressful has become all the more difficult for workers to handle.
Notably, stress reduction is one of the best-known benefits of yoga. As we mentioned in “4 Mental Health Benefits of Yoga”, the controlled breathing involved in the practice helps yogis lower their blood pressure, improve lung function, and relax the nervous system. Additionally, regular yoga practice inhibits the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Because of these benefits, it’s reasonable to say that yogis are better equipped to handle day-to-day stress.
Improved Sleep Quality
Stress (not to mention long hours) can lead to poor sleep, which leaves healthcare workers deprived of the energy they need to administer care effectively. Not only does poor sleep impair thinking, memory, and concentration, but it also weakens the immune system –– leaving people vulnerable to health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart failure.
As a physical activity, yoga plays a key role in fostering good sleep hygiene. Those who practice yoga will have an easier time falling asleep, and will also experience fewer sleep disturbances. So, while the practice can’t solve the issue of healthcare workers being overworked, it can make those workers more likely to enjoy quality sleep when they get the opportunity. Healthcare workers experiencing better sleep will wake up refreshed and primed for their working days.
There is also physical injury to consider. News Medical notes that healthcare workers, such as surgeons and nurses, are some of the most at-risk of contracting repetitive strain injury (RSI), which can cause tingling, numbness, and pain. Among nurses, RSI commonly occurs when repetitive movements from daily work tasks (such as administering injections and using medical equipment) strain muscle groups. But for most workers, the main cause of RSI is poor posture.
Because yoga poses help improve strength, flexibility, and mobility, practicing regularly can help reduce the risk of RSI. Through yoga, healthcare workers can decrease compression on their muscles and nerves. Yoga also promotes bodily awareness, which can help people be more mindful of poses and movements that lead to injury with too much repetition.
Strengthened Immune Systems
Nurses, physicians, and other healthcare professionals work with sick people on a daily basis. Combine this with the fact that the excess stress many healthcare workers experience can weaken their immune systems, and it’s clear these workers are at enhanced risk of contracting contagious diseases.
Yoga can help healthcare professionals strengthen their bodies’ defenses in this respect. The Good Trade’s article on yoga poses for immunity notes that the key to staying healthy is getting a steady supply of oxygen. Oxygen gives the body’s organs energy and helps cells grow, and people can do exercises that promote intentional breathwork in order to boost oxygen circulation in the body. And because controlled breathing is a big part of doing asanas, yoga offers some of the best such exercises. By extension, it is an effective way for healthcare professionals to strengthen their immune systems.
Healthcare professionals operate in some of the most challenging work environments and face an increased risk of disease, injury, and burnout. It’s a significant and widespread problem. Fortunately, the practice of yoga can help them improve their physical, mental, and emotional health, and thereby improve both wellness and effectiveness at work.
Written by Reanne Jefferson
Exclusively for THE YOGA COLLECTIVE