The momentum achieved early in the pandemic by positioning care professionals as “heroes” has since worn off, leaving a trail of stress, mental and emotional strain, and burnout.
COVID’s exacerbation of known stressors has forced Providers to proactively enact tangible improvements to working conditions, leadership availability, mental health support structures, and communications. Our HR members met to delve into these programs, and to also share practical ways in which they’re supporting those that need it most. Some of the key takeaways are summarized below:
- Improving staffing ratios is key to preventing burnout
Staffing ratios are a massive component of the current burden placed on care teams; investments there not only benefit the business, but can help prevent burnout from becoming an even larger issue.
Given today’s hiring challenges, some are using outsourcing and shared service models to consolidate their numbers and decrease the load on everyone’s plate – however, this only works for support staff. Automation can also help remove busywork from clinical schedules and decrease staffing needs.
For a long-term strategy, some are focusing on early recruitment efforts in high school and colleges, while others are focusing on entry-level staff and funneling them towards healthcare education.
- Recognition and communication are key in helping improve staff morale
Recognition programs are effective in keeping employees going, especially when deployed in high-stress, long-hour departments like the ICU and ED, or within units working considerable overtime.
Attendees also stressed the importance of normalizing open communications between staff and leadership, with an emphasis on reading into non-verbal cues. Measuring wellbeing and resilience is difficult, but if communication of self-care is emphasised from the top down and respected by leadership, progress can be made – surveys can be useful for this. On the other hand, denying applications for personal time and annual leave sends the wrong message.
- Leaders must show an active interest in the wellbeing of their staff, and lead in times of adversity
It is down to leaders to set the tone for their staff. Making room for leadership drop-ins – as in, safe spaces, virtual or physical, for employees to discuss personal matters with the leadership team – can also help, and provide a vital window into care teams’ realities.
Having management take shifts also sends a strong message to staff, and gives leadership a meaningful window into daily realities and challenges.
- Improving employee enjoyment can be a low cost, high impact strategy for stress reduction
Even small programs can make a large difference on the day-to-day lives of employees. One Attendee shared they turned August into a 30 Days of Fun campaign, which had members of their recognition committee and HR team plan different events for each day, such as dance offs. It was difficult to manage during the surge, but it got employees active and recharged in the midst of their shifts.
Others are leaning into holidays as they come, decorating and facilitating festive events to try and help destress care team members and patients that may be isolated from their loved ones.
- Advisory councils can help remind staff how important they are
Patient advisory councils can help keep staff grounded, as the stories shared can highlight how truly important their work is. Others are incorporating those touching stories into daily huddles and management meetings to keep every layer of the organization focused on the importance of their work.
- Staffing at a surplus could help decrease stress and improve patient care
Many attendees argued that the traditional ownership hierarchy of transport staff creates stressful situations. Transport is often owned by operations, not the units that use them, and are therefore staffed to ensure employees are always busy. Instead, Transport should be staffed at a surplus, so no patient is ever kept waiting. These positions are much less expensive than clinical staff to maintain, and the impact on care team stress and burnout is significant.
Connex Think Tanks are a series of highly interactive, practical discussions designed to stimulate innovative thinking and tackle the most pressing challenges faced by healthcare professionals.
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