Ep 148: Mental Health Awareness for Healthcare Workers and Trainees

The rate of mental health illness has already been on the rise among young adults and these past two years have added even more stress to our lives. We know first-hand how difficult things have been for healthcare workers and students alike. Michael Rieker, CRNA, DNP, FAAN, like many people, has been personally impacted by suicide and now uses that experience to help improve the mental health of people he comes in contact with each day. He joins us on this episode to talk about the challenges facing our industry, how we can personally make a difference in someone’s life, and an upcoming event that will honor the memory of an SRNA.

Click the timestamps below to help you navigate through the many topics we discussed.

On This Episode:

It’s great to see the amount of attention mental health has received over the past few years but we all know there’s so much more work to do. The rate of anxiety and depression continues to rise among young adults and the healthcare industry has carried a heavier weight since the start of the pandemic.

The more we discuss mental health, the better we’ll all be because of it. That’s what we wanted to do with Michael Rieker, CRNA, DNP, FAAN, who is the Professor and Chair of the Department of Academic Nursing at Wake Forest School of Medicine. He’s seen this mental health struggle first-hand from students in the program and he’s been working diligently to improve the lives of everyone he interacts with.

It also just so happened to be Suicide Prevention Week when we recorded so this topic is already top of mind for many people. In case you aren’t completely aware of how big of an issue this is, just think about this statistic that Rieker shares on the show: One out of six young people have contemplated suicide over the past year, which is a 50% increase from a decade before.

If you ever need someone to talk to, please reach out to Sharon or Jeremy and we’ll always be here to listen.

To learn more about the Run for Joy and how to participate, visit the event page here. 

As you get started on the episode, keep an ear out for these topics:

  • How the pandemic has impacted mental health for young people in our country.
  • Has the baseline anxiety always been there and now we’re paying more attention?
  • The impact the past two years have had on the healthcare industry.
  • All of the stigmas involved in healthcare right now.
  • The added stress that students are facing right now and how they’re helping with it.
  • What lessons he’s learned from tragedy.
  • Why we need to take the time to listen and allow people to be heard.
  • What he’s doing to help people find balance in their lives with work.
  • The upcoming event that he’s excited about.

Check it out the interview at the top of the page and use the timestamps to help you navigate through the many topics we discussed.

2:44 – Welcome in Mike Rieker. Why this is important to talk about.

4:53 – Background on Mike

5:32 – What has been driving mental health issues

8:49 – Effect on healthcare workers

13:20 – The quiet stressors

18:48 – Enormous pressure on anesthesia students

22:48 – Lessons he’s learned  

27:06 – Empathizing with people

30:22 – Providing support  

34:43 – Difficulty in finding balance

39:00 – The annual run

40:59 – Final thoughts

41:29 – Lightning round

45:25 – Details on the run


“One of the big lessons was that it’s not going to be obvious. The person’s not going to be sitting there having a mental breakdown and that’s going to be the queue that someone is going to say, ‘Hey, do you need a hand?’ It’s just much more insidious than that. You have to look for it. You have to be a lot more proactive about it.”

-Mike Rieker, CRNA, DNP, FAAN





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J. Cross CRNA
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This podcast is very well put together. I love the hosts Sharon & Jeremy, they do a fantastic job at presenting topics as well as getting great speakers on the show! This is my morning commute podcast everyday! Thank you for all that you do!
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I enjoy listening every morning. Great content and always a pleasure to learn something new.
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I started listening to this podcast religiously early on in my CRNA journey, a year before applying to CRNA school. The content in this podcast was one of my most helpful resources for getting into my first choice school, Wake Forest! It has also been a huge motivator for getting involved with the AANA now and throughout my career. I highly recommend this podcast to every prospective CRNA I meet.
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I appreciate hearing the latest and greatest in the world of Nurse Anesthesiology while also getting Class B credits. Just listen on your commute for a win/win experience. I love the perspectives from Jeremy and Sharon who both ask varied and insightful questions!
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If you’re a CRNA or any medical professional, I highly recommend giving this podcast a listen. Hosts have a great rapport.