September 30, 2021

NIOSH Asks Partners to Share Interventions to Support Health Workers' Mental Health

NIOSH will gather information about interventions to prevent work-related stress and promote mental health and well-being among U.S. health workers during a new public comment period that will be open until Nov. 26. Work in healthcare settings may involve long work hours, rotating and irregular shifts, exposure to human suffering and death, and increased risks for exposure to disease and harm, the agency explains in the Federal Register. According to NIOSH, these challenges have been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has “contributed to new and worsening mental health concerns, including burnout, compassion fatigue, depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, and suicidal ideation.” The agency’s request for information is part of nationwide efforts to raise awareness of mental health concerns and identify best practices to prevent and reduce work stress and related adverse health outcomes among health workers.

NIOSH urges employers, labor unions, workers, researchers, and others to provide comments related to best practices, promising practices, and successful programs for delivering mental health services to this worker population. These services might include employee assistance programs, supervisor trainings, workplace policies, peer support, and mobile apps. NIOSH may use the feedback it receives to improve data and surveillance, develop resources to inform employer policy changes, and develop a repository of best practices, resources, and interventions to help health workers maintain or improve their mental health and well-being.

“Health workers include everyone who works in healthcare—for public and private providers, in clinical and community settings—such as first responders, admitting and ward clerks, laboratory technologists and technicians, nurses, physicians, environmental services workers, and food service staff in healthcare settings,” NIOSH’s Federal Register notice reminds potential commenters. “Even health workers who are not on the frontlines or at high risk of infection may still encounter work demands that cause poor mental health outcomes.”

Further details and instructions for submitting comments are available in the Federal Register.