A very stormy summer and the recent Las Vegas tragedy have reminded us yet again that life can sometimes be very ugly. During such tragedies, it is natural and right for us to think of victims first. However, there is another group of people deserving of more attention than they get: first responders. They need a different kind of help – help that locum tenens psychiatrists are in a unique position to offer.
According to a recent article published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), numerous studies have revealed that as many as 75% of first responders exhibit at least mild symptoms of psychological trauma in the aftermath of a significant disaster. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), compassion fatigue, and burnout are common.
The APA maintains that there are a number of contributing factors to the psychological stress first responders go through. Among them are long shifts, inexperience in dealing with certain kinds of disasters, exposure to corpses, and the overall stress of trying to meet so many needs with inadequate resources.
How Locum Psychiatrists Can Help
Whenever a natural disaster or man-made tragedy strikes, the need for psychiatry services spikes in the local area. Private practices field more inquiries, psychiatric hospitals see more patients, and free counseling hotlines are overwhelmed with phone traffic. These are times when locums can step in to offer much-needed assistance.
The locum currently engaged in a contract cannot necessarily go help in the disaster area unless the facility he or she is working for agrees to give leave. But locums in between assignments are in a different position. As soon as tragedy strikes, they can begin inquiring as to where and how they can help. They can travel to disaster zones; they can volunteer to help staff counseling hotlines; they can volunteer with charitable organizations to work alongside relief workers.
Another thing to consider is the fact the first responders may need psychiatric help for months following an especially traumatic event. This generally means increased demand for services at local hospitals, clinics, and private practices. Locum psychiatrists interested in helping can make a point of looking for assignments in affected areas. Houston, Miami, and Las Vegas are three examples of cities that immediately come to mind.
Temporary Help to Overcome a Crisis
The thing to remember about locum work is that it is temporary work. All locum doctors, from psychiatrists to oncologists to internists, take temporary assignments in different locations throughout the year. And because the increased demand for services following a disaster tends to be temporary as well, locum psychiatry represents one of the best ways to meet the need of increased demand only for as long as it exists.
As a locum psychiatrist, you may never have considered how important temporary psychiatry jobs are in the aftermath of natural disasters or man-made tragedies. Rest assured they are vitally important. First responders are heroes who rush in and offer assistance where others are not willing to tread. But many of them need saving themselves.
As a psychiatrist, you can help first responders suffering from psychological trauma resulting from the work they do. Your knowledge and experience can help them navigate the troubled waters of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and compassion fatigue. In so doing, you are helping restore first responders to health so that they can keep doing what they do.
If you are not a locum psychiatrist but have been looking into it, consider the ability to help first responders in the aftermath of disasters and tragedies as good reason to move into the locum tenens arena.