Two new studies have come out in the past week exploring medical professionals (doctors and nurses) who fail to recognize depression in the patients they work with. While these professionals specialize the health of the body itself, they are often the central or only contact most people have with a trained health professional. It’s important that these professionals know what to look for and how to recognize depression and other psychological and emotional stresses in their patients. This could make the difference between or the patient’s depression sustaining or even worsening and a patient deciding to find a therapist and get help.
Specifically, the studies found that physicians are particularly poor at recognizing depression in the elderly and that nurses are often underprepared and ill-equipped to recognize depression and distress in the patients they work with. The latter study looked further in depth at some of the barriers to depression awareness facing nurses in the UK. While the nursing profession is one that often creates authentic personal bonds between nurses and their patients, many nurses lack the mental health training to recognize when their patients need more help than just a friendly touch. Understandably, people in a hospital setting are rarely there for joyful reasons, so it’s likely that patients experience more stress and sadness than they would otherwise. But training nurses to recognize which patients’ problems go beyond normal worry to the extent of disrupting their lives could benefit people who need therapy but aren’t receiving it.
Previous surveys have shown that hospital staff would feel better if they received additional training to help them understand, for example, patients who are treated for self-harm injuries. Finding time and funding to support this aspect of professional development for both nurses and doctors can greatly benefit the overall care provided to patients when they visit a health facility. If patients are to receive adequate care for every aspect of their health and well-being, then the professional knowledge of therapists and counselors should be incorporated in facilities dedicated to physical health so that depressed patients do not go un-cared for in this way.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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