The past year was a challenging time for everyone. Millions of people lost their lives fighting against a devastating virus under stressful situations. Nurses and healthcare workers were on the front lines putting their lives at stake to help the infected recover. They had to work with limited resources and face traumatic incidents while confronting social distancing and loneliness.
Under these circumstances, healthcare professionals experienced severe mental health issues. Burnout was a significant issue within the sector pre-pandemic, and it only got worse post-pandemic.
According to experts, the demanding pace and emotional intensity put workers at risk for burnout. Furthermore, an acute shortage of competent workers within poor populations put even more pressure on an overburdened healthcare system.
Professionals are already warning of an imminent mental health pandemic. Since the pandemic, the situation has gotten only worse. So, how can we avoid this situation? And can wellness in the sector improve the situation?
Refocusing on wellness during pandemics:
When the pandemic emerged, global healthcare systems had to push past their limits as newer, and more contagious variants of the coronavirus claimed millions of lives. Most people worked from home for months, making them feel alienated from others. The crises and widespread layoffs also increased the pressure on others. Public health officials believe that wellbeing is a shared responsibility. We spend half of our life in the workplace, and our work environment affects all aspects of our lives.
We need to take a holistic view of employee wellness post-pandemic. Fortunately, policymakers understand this. Employers and public bodies are refocusing on mental and physical wellness. Therefore, employers must introduce health promotion and disease prevention strategies at the workplace.
But, public health issues are complicated. Short-sighted public health programs only end up making prevailing matters more complex and challenging to overcome. But understanding this situation isn’t hard at all. With several prestigious universities offering online postgraduate degrees in public health, physicians graduating with these online credentials can handle the complex needs of populations.
Candidates who enrolled for an online mph degree find it easier to understand the current situation of healthcare and its impact on communities. And after understanding how the system works, they’re able to develop wellness policies for communities, thereby becoming an essential part of the healthcare system and contributing to the progress of humanity.
Other issues during the pandemic include the need for childcare as all schools and daycares shut down during the pandemic to enforce social distancing. So, thousands of healthcare workers had to struggle to arrange childcare services.
Essential workers had to leave theirs alone without adequate care. They were scrambling to restructure child care, as the social distancing protocols made it impossible to pass the responsibility to traditional careers.
Most healthcare workers struggled with guilt and anxiety as they treated other people while neglecting their flesh and blood. This situation only added to physician burnout. Healthcare leaders have to offer adequate policies to support the workers during crises. So, essential workers do not have to worry about their families while saving lives.
One thing is sure; employers must improve workplace culture and employee wellness. But, what is in it for them, and what are the benefits of employee wellness?
Why should employers focus on wellness?
A wellness strategy is as necessary as focusing on profit margins. There are several benefits of a wellness strategy. Not only does wellness improve focus, but it also reduces stress and increases job satisfaction. Sadly, worker satisfaction is low amongst medical professionals.
More than half of all nurses agree that job satisfaction is vital for patient care. But, in the healthcare system, the effects of employee dissatisfaction can be dire. Dissatisfaction can increase absenteeism and reduce retention.
Dissatisfied medical professionals are likely to make more errors and increase recovery times. They also have higher mortality rates. Furthermore, patients also notice dissatisfaction. Resultantly, patients have lower satisfaction levels.
A strategic emphasis on employee engagement can increase repeated visits and reduce errors. Therefore, healthcare institutions will have to face fewer lawsuits and lower costs. Employee wellness has a direct relation with worker morale. However, effective leadership is fundamental for wellness programs.
The link between leadership and wellness in healthcare:
According to a 2009 report, quality leadership can promote and empower positive habits within the workplace. Management is integral as they help employees feel engaged. They can support workers by providing necessary resources to provide patient care and do their jobs well.
Healthcare leaders can also improve the workplace culture by promoting a culture of accountability. They must support their employers and implement safety reporting systems.
How can employees promote wellness and resilience in healthcare?
A wellness strategy can only work when it is well-planned and well-executed. Employers have to begin by working on minor issues, such as better lunchtime options and flexible hours. The following aspects can also improve employee wellness.
- Think about mental health: Healthcare workers may suffer from PTSD, depression, or anxiety because of the traumatic nature of their work. Therefore, healthcare leaders have to grapple with this issue. While mental health issues are prevalent, there is still a stigma around mental wellness.
Leaders have to educate others to identify the symptoms of mental injury. They must also reach out to healthcare workers to discuss the importance of resilience. Direct supervisors of healthcare workers should support their team members and assess their fears and concerns.
- Strategies to manage stress and practice self-care: Several healthcare institutions have started emailing employers daily with words of affirmation. They also share resources for assistance to address burnout.
Industry leaders can share affordable resources such as meditation, relaxation techniques, and mindfulness training to manage stress. Positive reinforcements can reduce absenteeism and burnout.
- On-site child care: During the pandemic, healthcare workers struggled to arrange adequate child care. Some had to rely on volunteer services from medical students, while others used private daycares open for essential workers.
However, these measures were temporary. Healthcare workers do not have traditional work hours, and they often have night shifts which can get extremely challenging at times. Furthermore, these services cost a leg and an arm. The average weekly cost of child care in the USA is $211. Fortunately, hospitals can address this issue by providing on-site childcare.
- A culture of collaboration: Collaborative teams are more motivated and perform better. Collaboration can address challenges and improve patient satisfaction. Therefore, the staff must feel included to promote engagement and collaboration.
Healthcare staff can go on forums to share and discuss personal thoughts on patient care. They can also build trust and develop better communication strategies amongst healthcare professionals.
- Burnout prevention strategies: Burnout is an urgent issue within healthcare. Therefore, healthcare leaders must introduce programs to diminish the rate of burnout. Administrators can introduce a rewards program to reward doctors for any tasks they do outside their clinical requirements.
Alternatively, they can encourage strategic napping to improve employee wellness.
Healthcare professionals have to remain resilient to face overwhelming challenges within the sector. However, they have to address persistent gaps to close these holes. A well-planned employee wellness program can help administrators innovate and introduce protective strategies for wellness.