Viewpoint: Healthcare workers deserve to pursue mental care 'without fear of losing their license'

To support the mental health and well-being of healthcare workers, states must ensure intrusive mental health questions are not part of licensure and credentialing applications, experts argue in an article published Nov. 29 by U.S. News & World Report.   

The article is written by Corey Feist, co-founder of the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation; Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global, author and founder of The Huffington Post; Deborah Marcus, executive in the CAA Foundation; and Michelle Williams, dean of faculty at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston and a co-founder of #FirstRepondersFirst.

In the piece, the experts urge states to remove language in their licensing and credentialing processes that stigmatizes healthcare workers who have sought treatment related to mental health. They cite research showing that 31 states, plus Washington, D.C., may still use such language.

"Some require applicants to disclose any past psychiatric impairment, potentially going back decades, even to adolescence," the authors wrote. "These questions might violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. They certainly violate applicants' privacy. And there is significant evidence that they deter clinicians from seeking the care they need — at tremendous risk to their well-being and their lives."

The authors add that no clinician should forgo mental healthcare because of concerns about disclosure on their licensure, credentialing or insurance applications.

"Like everybody, health workers deserve the right to pursue the care they need whenever they need it, without fear of losing their license or job," they wrote. 

The article comes as burnout continues to affect healthcare workers, including executives. Hospitals and health systems are also grappling with intensified staffing shortages.

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