Mental Health Matters: How to Better Protect Your Healthcare Staff
Every industry experiences on-the-job stress, but there are certain sectors that are known to succumb to higher levels of anxiety, fatigue, and burnout. Healthcare is one of them.
Physicians, ER nurses, registered nurses (RNs), geriatric nurses — whatever the title, studies have shown that the rate these individuals suffer with stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other symptoms is at an all-time high. This is in part due to the recent coronavirus pandemic, which has forced healthcare employees to work under insurmountable conditions. They’ve had to be stand-ins for families who were unable to be there for their loved ones. They’ve put their own lives at risk caring for others without having access to the appropriate personal protective equipment. The list goes on and on. But even then, this isn’t new. Studies dating back to 2014 found that healthcare workers experienced the most stress compared to any other industry.
While it’s impossible to eliminate the psychological toll of working in healthcare, it’s time healthcare executives implement the necessary solutions to make mental health a priority within their organizations. How are you protecting the mental and emotional well-being of your staff? Below are some great places to start.
Recognizing the signs of burnout
It’s near impossible to support your employees’ mental well-being unless you know what signs to watch out for. This isn’t to say you should wait for signs of burnout before you intervene, of course. Being proactive, rather than reactive, is the goal. But many healthcare executives don’t even realize what burnout looks like.
There are a number of great online resources out there about burnout, but some of the red flags you can watch for in your staff include: frequent headaches or muscle pain, compromised immunity, constant fatigue, cynical outlooks on everything, a loss of motivation, and more.
Some employees believe so much in their mission that they prioritize everyone else’s needs above their own. Healthcare workers are among the most devoted, loving, and selfless people I’ve met, but putting themselves last is the worst thing they can do for themselves and their patients. By not taking care of their mental health, these employees can actually impair their quality of care, lower their patient satisfaction ratings, and lose their compassion and passion for the job.
Encourage your staff to provide themselves the same attention, care, and compassion they give to others. This can look like modeling appropriate work-life boundaries, giving employees time to take breaks throughout the day, and supporting them so they can utilize their PTO days.
Value their sacrifices
Appreciation for healthcare workers often gets left unsaid, but healthcare executives must begin to recognize and vocalize the sacrifices and hard work of their staff. Recent studies show this recognition can actually boost resilience and help combat burnout. You can do this during one-on-one meetings or in department meetings, but just letting your employees know that you see, hear, and value them can help them get through the particularly difficult periods of the job.
You have always made patient care a priority within your facilities, but now it’s time to make sure your staff is getting that same level of consideration.