Healthcare workers have courageously taken on enormous risk in the fight against COVID-19, the most consuming health crisis in over 100 years. As infection numbers are surging yet again, healthcare workers are hard at work, fighting for the best possible patient outcomes. In order to help them perform at their best, it’s vital that healthcare companies find ways to boost morale for their workers. This means improving communications, providing much-needed resources, and supporting our doctors, nurses, and other staff members in COVID-19 wards across the country.
Where We Stand
COVID-19 took the world by storm nearly a year ago. Since then, we’ve learned about social distancing, we’ve worn masks in public, and we’ve celebrated holidays and milestones via video call. Through all of this, frontline healthcare workers have stood strong in the face of a daunting healthcare crisis, working to provide the best possible care to patients.
This has been no small task. And now, with a vaccine around the corner, we’re still only beginning to understand the virus and its effects. While we’ve come a long way since the early days, it’s vital that we don’t stop now. It’s crucial that healthcare workers get the support and supplies they need to continue to do a difficult job in the midst of a pandemic.
How to Help
What can hospitals, clinics, and administrators do to improve the situation for their workers? While there is no perfect solution to such a problem, there are some very real steps that can be taken to lessen the stress and help workers perform their daily jobs. Here are a few best practices you may want to implement for your workers.
It’s easy for communication to get lost in the fog of too much to do and not enough time to do it. Yet without effective communication, a hospital or clinic won’t be able to function well. Chances are, some members of your team are currently doing jobs that they never had before. New protocols are being developed regularly as our understanding of the virus continues to deepen. Policies and supply information surrounding the vaccine distribution are constantly being updated. This is not the time for a breakdown in communications.
Fortunately, technology offers a solution. With today’s tech, we can easily send out information to an entire workforce, a specific team, or a few select individuals with the tap of a finger or click of a mouse. Be sure to choose an effective digital tool for communication within your organization, and then ensure everyone knows how to use it and is receiving their messages. Keep communications direct, to the point, and brief to ensure they’re read by busy staff members, then offer them the opportunity to ask questions and discuss any concerns they may have. Respond to feedback promptly, and ensure your employees feel that they’re being heard, even if their suggestions aren’t implemented. Effective communications in the brief moments your teams have available instills confidence in your people that you are doing everything possible to support them in this challenge.
Your employees may be feeling overworked and overwhelmed. That’s a recipe for stress and possibly an increase in mistakes. One simple way to combat this is to express your appreciation to workers in a way they will hear.
This can take on many forms. It may be as simple as having a brief conversation with each employee as you pass them in the hallway or encounter them in the breakroom. It could be a catered lunch from a local restaurant or stocking the lunchroom with special snacks and treats. It could be simple and inexpensive gifts, or a personal thank you note hand-delivered to each employee. Small moments of recognition will help your workers know you value the work they are doing and risks they are taking to do their job.
Get Social (While Socially Distanced)
Let’s face it: nobody outside of the healthcare space really understands what your employees are going through. This means that co-workers are often the best option for a shoulder to lean on, helpful tips to get through a shift, or simple camaraderie.
Whenever possible, try to set up social gatherings for your employees that are still socially distant. The best option is to have outdoor gatherings, for maximum ventilation. Ensure each gathering is kept small, with only a handful of employees present at any given time. Celebrate positive milestones as a staff with birthday greetings and recognition of important life events. Ring a bell or play a happy song over the loudspeaker each time a COVID-19 patient is taken off a ventilator or sent home. Encourage employees to congratulate each other for a job well done. Keep it lighthearted and safe, but ensure that you’re allowing for social interaction among staff as a means of releasing stress and relieving tension.
Provide Support Services
Finally, there are some mental health concerns that can’t be fixed with a hot meal and a heartfelt thank you. Mental Health America reported that 82% of healthcare workers experienced an increase in emotional exhaustion and 70% experienced an increase in trouble with sleep. It’s more vital than ever that hospitals and other facilities provide support services to employees who are hurting or struggling. On-site psychologists and counselors are an excellent starting point. Consider also offering access to virtual stress relievers such as mindfulness classes or yoga or meditation practices.
Reexamine Supplies Regularly
At the start of this pandemic, PPE was in short supply and many hospitals were forced to make do with what they had. This meant reusing single-use masks and gowns and getting creative with ways to stretch supplies until production could meet demand. Today, the shortages are not nearly as severe, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Now is the time to take inventory of day-to-day supplies. Reach out to workers to see what they need to be more effective in their work and ensure supply levels are kept up going forward. Stock up on PPE, treatment supplies, cleaning and sanitation products, and anything else your staff uses on a daily basis. But don’t just do this once.
As long as we are in pandemic mode, the need for supplies will continue to fluctuate. This means you will need to reassess and reevaluate your supply chain on a regular basis. Appoint someone in each department to monitor supplies and check-in with team members regularly, then report back with any needs that may exist.
No matter what you do, ensure employees know you are looking for ways to help them and care about their concerns or difficulties. Do what you can to ease the burden of working through COVID-19 and remind your staff that this is not permanent and the end is in sight. Cultivating a culture of hope can help employees process and push through even the most difficult days.