Prior to the pandemic, one in five American adults experienced a mental illness. Between August 2020 and February 2021, the percentage of adults with symptoms of an anxiety or a depressive disorder increased to 41.5% as a result of stress due to the pandemic, according to the Household Pulse Survey conducted by the CDC and U.S. Census Bureau. These numbers increased when surveying healthcare workers, with 93% experiencing stress and 76% reporting exhaustion and burnout according to Mental Health America.
Healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic, whose roles are challenging in normal circumstances, have experienced heightened—and in many cases—extreme levels of stress, anxiety, exhaustion and frustration over the course of the past year. Nurses and physicians in the areas with the highest influx of Covid-19 patients have compared the experience to working in a war zone. Others have articulated the emotional toll of caring for dying patients isolated from their families and loved ones as well as caring for ill colleagues. The fear of transmitting Covid-19 themselves has resulted in added feelings of concern and isolation.
The impact of the pandemic on the healthcare community is so great, that it has led many frontline clinicians to their breaking point. With the mental health and emotional wellbeing of healthcare workers at a critical stage, it’s imperative that employers provide resources to assist clinicians who may be struggling.
To recognize Mental Health Month in May, here are six actions you can take to help ensure your healthcare staff are supported.
1. Check-in. Frequent check-ins with your employees will give you an opportunity to identify potential issues early and address concerns head-on, before they become a bigger problem. They are also important for evaluating performance, versus waiting until a performance review. Check-ins aren’t just for managers, though. Check in with your peers if they seem stressed or down—it will let them know that someone recognizes something is wrong and is wanting and willing to help.
2. Overcommunicate. During times of crisis, overcommunication and transparency helps employees feel involved and like part of the larger team. Host listening panels or town halls where leadership can share staffing plans or general updates to employees and encourage question-and-answer sessions, so employees receive new information in real-time.
3. Measure and track employee feedback. Anonymous surveys are a great way for employees to provide honest and critical feedback without the worry of negative repercussions. They are also a helpful tool for generating new ideas or process improvements for employers. To ensure you’re getting the most out of employee surveys, make sure you are measuring and tracking feedback over a set course of time (weekly, monthly, yearly) and when applicable, implement the suggestions so employees see that their voices are being heard.
4. Offer support programs. Caring about the well-being and emotional resilience of your team is crucial. Consider offering grief counseling for employees on the frontlines of traumatic situations and encourage staff to take advantage of Employee Assistance Program (EAP) benefits in place through their human resources department and/or through their staffing company. This will give employees an outside resource to discuss their feelings and emotions and receive positive feedback and reinforcement.
5. Improve work-life balance. A lack of work-life balance not only increases nurse burnout and attrition, but it can also be unsafe for a patient. Employees who feel like they have a healthy and flexible work schedule are typically less stressed, more engaged and have an overall better job satisfaction than those who work through breaks and overtime.
6. Implement mentorship programs. Mentoring is a great way for more junior level staff to learn from seasoned professionals in their facilities. They can provide helpful guidance to the nuances on a specific floor or unit and serve as a peer rather than a boss or supervisor. Mentoring is also beneficial for travelers who may be seasoned in their skill but new to a facility and still learning the culture.
At Medical Solutions, we strongly believe that the mental health of our internal team of employees and our travelers is crucial. Our travelers are eligible for EAP which includes eight free in-person or remote counseling sessions to help address personal issues and to help connect the individual with the right mental health professionals. Also available as a complimentary benefit is access to webcasts that address a variety of issues, including mental and emotional well-being.
Internally, we host consistent one-on-one check-ins with our team members to address concerns or pressures, provide and promote wellness resources and participate in annual employee surveys. We also serve as a resource and sounding board for our travelers who may find themselves struggling with their assignments or in need of additional support, given the day-to-day impact of working in a fast-paced, and oftentimes, emotional role.
To learn more about Medical Solutions and how we encourage a positive workplace experience for our team, clients and travelers, you can contact our team here or call us directly at 1-866-633-3548.