Nurturing a Human-First Approach in Healthcare: Strategies for Overwhelmed Workforces


By Jennifer Melham

As we move away from one of the most impactful health emergencies in our recent history, the mental and emotional effects the pandemic had on healthcare providers throughout the country and beyond are lasting. Many hospital workforces are still stretched thin, leaving clinicians overwhelmed and burnt out.

Maintaining a human-first approach with staff may seem daunting when faced with staffing challenges, but there’s never been a more crucial time to do so. In a previous Industry Insights article, How to Build a People-First, Values-Based Culture That Drives Performance, we interviewed Medical Solutions’ Chief Human Resources Officer, Dana Coonce. We learned the importance of creating a human-first culture from an HR perspective. She spoke to the efforts that Medical Solutions made in nurturing this type of culture, but how can healthcare leaders do the same? There are five pivotal considerations to make when looking at your own workforce.

Proactively Address Employee Wellbeing

How are you currently addressing employee well-being in your facility?

Amid burnout among healthcare providers, you may want to see how you can implement wellness programs, mental health support services, and other initiatives to encourage open dialogue about the challenges staff members are facing. Recognizing and acknowledging the efforts of your clinicians can go a long way in building a resilient and motivated workforce.

An example of how this can be done is by adopting Code Lavender, which designates a situation where emotional or psychological support is needed for healthcare staff, usually in response to a challenging or distressing event. It’s ideal in situations where a clinician may be experiencing a high level of stress, grief, or emotional exhaustion due to the loss of a patient, a challenging medical case, or any event that significantly impacts the emotional well-being of staff members.

Implement Effective Communication Strategies

If any industry requires effective communication, it’s healthcare. It’s easy to remember this in the face of patient outcomes and satisfaction, but you can’t forget about employee satisfaction. Employing methods like routine town hall meetings, digital platforms for updates, and fostering a culture of transparency throughout your facility will help to keep clinicians and other hospital staff connected and engaged.

Adapt and Reinforce Your Core Values to Align with Current Realities

A healthcare organization’s core values are the guiding principles for all healthcare and facility staff. During challenging times, such as when hospitals are critically understaffed, it’s important to assess these values and reflect on whether they are realistic for current circumstances.

Ensuring that your company’s core values emphasize collaboration, empathy, and support can go a long way in showing staff healthcare leaders are committed to their people in times of need.

Balance Efficiency and Employee Experience

It’s no secret that hospital leaders must consider operational efficiency. This, however, does not need to come at the cost of employee experience, nor should it. Healthcare leaders should challenge themselves to find ways to streamline processes without compromising the well-being of their staff.

This can look like implementing technology solutions that enhance efficiency—such as virtual nursing—while focusing on the human aspect of healthcare. Striking this balance is key to ensuring a positive workplace culture.

Balancing efficiency with employee experience can also look like offering schedule flexibility and embracing a flexible workforce. These accommodations can help reduce stress both for your existing talent and incoming travelers and local contractors.

Employ Strategies to Retain and Develop Your Existing Talent

When understaffed and strategizing how to retain new clinicians, it’s vital that healthcare leaders do not forget the importance of retaining and developing existing talent. This can look like offering professional development opportunities, mentorship programs, and public recognition for their contributions. Creating this supportive environment where staff feel valued and have growth opportunities can significantly contribute to talent retention.

Our Chief Human Resources Officer also noted how cultivating talent can provide organizational growth even after an employee has moved on from the facility.

“I don’t think you should ever stop investing in people. Even if people leave the organization or maybe they aren’t as successful as they wanted to be, if we can still deliver a positive employee experience and help them develop and grow while they’re here, then we’re going to be a better organization because of it.” – Coonce

Nurturing and maintaining a human-first approach in your hospital or facility will only ever help healthcare leaders address the unique challenges faced by an overwhelmed healthcare workforce. Prioritizing employee well-being just as much as you prioritize patient outcomes will help create a resilient and compassionate workplace even in the toughest of circumstances.

Contact our team  today to learn how partnering with our healthcare talent ecosystem can help you build and maintain a human-first culture within your workforce.