Healthcare workers are true heroes. They attend to injuries and treat diseases. They make life more comfortable and design viable treatment plans. They save lives. But despite all their training, specialized skills, and the ability to go long hours without sleep, they’re still human. And, during times of COVID, they’ve been working around the clock for practically a year. So what can you do to ensure their comfort and prevent burnout?
What is burnout in healthcare?
Being tired is one thing. Being physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted is a whole other ball game. Healthcare worker burnout refers to the effects of sustained stress for long periods of time. It can be caused by a constant fast pace, complicated patients, poor patient outcomes, and/or staff shortages. In addition to the hardships in the workplace, they find themselves with less time to dedicate to their home and family — which leads to even more stress.
Healthcare burnout is dangerous and causes harm both to healthcare professionals as well as to patients. Burned-out physicians and nursing staff are more likely to get sick, leave the practice, or affect the quality of care and patient safety. While healthcare worker burnout has always existed, the COVID pandemic has significantly exacerbated it — especially when they get off their long shifts, only to see people who refuse to wear masks and observe CDC social distancing guidelines.
Signs of Burnout in Healthcare Workers
The symptoms of healthcare burnout vary from one worker to the next. However, the most common and obvious ones include:
- Dreading going to work
- Sleeping difficulties
- Lack of motivation
- Becoming short-tempered
- Crying easily
- Impaired attention
- Poor memory
- Getting sick more often
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Apathy or detachment from patients
5 Ways to Prevent Burnout in Healthcare
1. Make Worker Wellness a Part of Your Culture
If your healthcare workers aren’t doing well, your patients aren’t going to do well. Be proactive in finding out workers’ concerns — by creating surveys or creating a platform where they can bring them up. Then, prioritize addressing them. If you are understaffed, hire more people. If you don’t have enough supplies, enlist someone to oversee that you’re always fully stocked. Make sure everyone has adequate PPE. Insist on every single healthcare professional taking breaks.
2. Create a Healthy Environment
Have a physical location where workers can go to relax — an on-call room where they can sleep, a relaxation room where they can meditate or simply sit in silence. Sponsor workout classes. Keep healthy snacks, water, coffee, teas, and creamer in the break room. Encourage communication and foster trust. Have an open-door policy and encourage your team to be honest about what would lessen their stress load.
3. Allow Flexibility
Hospitals and medical offices aren’t the only ones affected by this worldwide pandemic. Your workers are also likely dealing with homeschooling their own kids, having to quarantine after being exposed to a loved one who has tested positive to COVID, and/or having to take care of ailing family members. If some of your workers can offer telehealth by working from home for some of their shifts, allow them to do so. If they need to take time off to take care of family — or their own mental health — look for ways to make it happen.
4. Provide Mental Health Support
At some point, frontline workers will need help coping with the impact of the pandemic. Providing access to counseling and webinars are good starting points. In fact, as New York City became the epicenter of the pandemic, the NYU Langone Health System created a Frontline Staff Support Task Force precisely for this purpose. As part of their program, they created an internal website for employees, offering mental health services and other resources to help them take care of their mental health.
5. Acknowledge Their Hard Work
Nobody likes to feel underappreciated or overlooked — especially when they seem to be working around the clock and risking their lives. Always provide positive feedback when warranted. In fact, actively look for things that are going well. Let your team know how much you appreciate them. Provide meals in the break room. Hire a masseuse for short chair massages. Thank them.
Need Creative Ideas? The Symphony Agency Can Help
Reducing worker burnout comes down to building trusting relationships and making things as easy as possible. And while there are things that have to be implemented on-site at your medical practice, The Symphony Agency can help you develop internal newsletters, as well as educational materials — such as infographics, tip sheets, and posters — to inform your healthcare team of helpful resources. For more information about our services, contact our client experience team today.