Image by 123RF
By Maya Ram, Clinical Specialist of Ergotron
The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in an era of extreme pressure and stress for healthcare workers that may continue for years. From healthcare leaders and IT professionals, to administrative staff and caregivers, everyone is feeling that the effects of the pandemic are here to stay.
It’s understandable that industry leaders are overwhelmed by major challenges facing the healthcare system, including rising costs, finding ways to achieve safe staffing ratios and reducing reliance on mandatory overtime, to name a few. That said, it’s crucial that these leaders remain focused on tangible, incremental changes that can make a big difference in the well-being of caregivers. There are numerous barriers to employee well-being in the healthcare industry that result in overworked and overwhelmed clinical and non-clinical staff.
By focusing on daily practices and policies, not only are clinicians and IT staff happier and healthier but patients also receive better care, too. Here are three things healthcare leaders can do to support their staff and ultimately improve patient care.
Institute regular mental health checks for staff
It’s no surprise that healthcare workers are exhausted. According to Deloitte’s 2022
Global Health Care Outlook report, healthcare workers are experiencing incredible
amounts of stress – with 55% of frontline workers claiming to be burnt out. Additionally, a study from Mental Health America states that 39% of healthcare workers feel as though they are not receiving sufficient emotional support, with nurses reporting this the most (45%). These sentiments are not promising for the industry.
Healthcare leaders should enact regular check-ins with their staff to encourage open communication about job stressors. The CDC recommends open communication amongst teams to cope with work-related mental health struggles. They also recommend incorporating policies and education, especially during times of crisis, on proper sleep and self-care practices. Buddy systems are helpful to ensure staff has someone to turn to during stressful times. Take Massachusetts General Hospital as an example. They’ve implemented buddy systems into their general well-being initiative. Leaders should prioritize their staff’s mental health to mitigate added stressors on the workforce.
Provide proper tools to reduce physical burden on caregivers
Healthcare professionals are also encountering negative physical effects at work. A recent study from Ergotron revealed that 43% of healthcare workers report work-related injuries or health problems related to repetitive stress and poor physical support. Caregivers who are on their feet for hours on end and exposed to a variety of conditions can develop serious health concerns, aches and pains.
In the same report, 95% of healthcare professionals stated that having better and more mobile equipment could improve their health and well-being at work. By providing smart beds, wearable devices, portable monitors and on-the-go nursing stations, and more, nurses can be relieved of some of their day-to-day physical stressors.
The American Nurse Association claims that caregiver fatigue can lead to worse and even more dangerous environments for patients. Therefore, if healthcare professionals’ feelings are ignored, and fatigue persists, patients will continue to get the short end of the stick. A defeated and overworked population of caregivers, both physically and mentally, means that those clinicians don’t have the resources they need to provide the best patient care.
Implement schedules that serve both the staff and patients
In today’s overextended healthcare environment, scheduling continues to be a big area of concern for staff. Leaders can work to alleviate burnout and fatigue by limiting scheduling staff for extended shifts, providing additional time in-between shifts, supporting short breaks throughout the day, and minimizing work required outside of shifts. Leadership should take the initiative to foster a transparent environment so hard-working staff feel understood and comfortable. By equipping healthcare professionals with tools and resources that support them in their work and health, leaders can reduce unnecessary stress. Freeing up time and energy for caregivers allows them to focus on the important parts of their jobs – the patients.
Without addressing these issues, the industry runs the risk of losing or decreasing its population of caregivers, which is already short-staffed. In fact, the growing demand for healthcare services projects that an estimated 1.2 million additional RNs will be needed by 2030. It’s crucial that the industry supports the current population of caretakers so they remain a part of the field and help curb the predicted demand.
Making change for the good of the industry and patients
While the initial surge of the pandemic is behind us, its effects will linger for years to come. Now is an appropriate time to take a step back, recognize the hardships healthcare professionals have faced for the past few years, and use these learnings to make positive changes for the future. While the industry emerges from a global health emergency and continues to face persistent challenges, we must be prepared to better support healthcare staff by implementing practices today that will benefit the entire healthcare system tomorrow.
Maya Ram is Ergotron’s Clinical Specialist who provides real-world insights to show how Ergotron solutions can improve unique workflows. Maya has more than 10 years of healthcare experience and is an RN in acute care settings, including ED, med surge, cardiac telemetry and the PACU. She also has worked as a software specialist for a leading EHR company and served as a staff trainer for nurse call system implementation.