By Dr. Patricia Thompson
Senior Consultant, TLG
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, few have been impacted by Covid-19 as frontline healthcare workers. They have faced a myriad of challenges, including high workloads, emotional demands, and constant change. When you add it all together, it creates a dangerous mix that can lead to burnout and compassion fatigue. This can have negative implications for both healthcare workers, and the patients they serve.
A recent survey from The Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation Survey Project included 1,327 frontline health care workers. Among them were staff from hospitals, doctors’ offices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and assisted care facilities, and those working in home health care. The findings are troubling. 62% of those interviewed say worry or stress related to Covid-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health. On top of that, 56% of respondents reported that the same stress and worry has led to trouble sleeping or sleeping too much. Overall, 55% of those surveyed reported being burned out. While the toll being taken on our healthcare heroes is staggering, so are the low number of those seeking help. Just 13% of respondents reported seeking mental health services or medication.
Many healthcare workers are choosing to fight this battle alone, but they don’t have to. While they invest so much into the patients they serve, they must invest in their mental health and wellbeing to deliver the high-quality patient care that is expected. Here are some ways that healthcare workers can guard their mental health and protect themselves from the risk of burnout.
Acknowledgement and Discussion
Recognizing and addressing the issue is the first step towards healing. Having one-on-one or group coaching sessions that allow employees to voice their feelings and frustrations is crucial. A culture that sees resilience as not being able to complain or speak up is a recipe for disaster. Instead, having an outlet in which people can share their concerns without judgment is crucial. Developing strong relationships through shared experiences, bonds, and coaching/mentoring can help healthcare workers protect their mental health and well-being.
Acquire Lifestyle Habits that Support Resilience
There are many daily habits that can be implemented to support building resilience among healthcare workers. Resilience is like a muscle, and to exercise your personal resilience is to build it. Some of these habits include cognitive reappraisal, self-compassion, communicating to get your needs met, and learning how to manage overwhelm and other negative emotions. In my online resilience course built specifically for nurses, I go over these and more research-based lifestyle habits in detail and how you can integrate them into your daily life.
Take Care of Yourself Physically, and Mentally
Your physical and mental health are connected. Taking a toll on one will take its toll on the other. Healthcare workers should be sure that they are exercising for at least 30 minutes a day and taking breaks with physical activity at work to rejuvenate. They should protect their mental health as well. Creating a clear boundary between work and your personal life is key. Take time off when needed, even if you use a sick day to avoid burnout.
You can take control of your mental health and wellbeing, which will lead to a better mood, improved productivity, and a healthy work life. We owe so much to our healthcare heroes, and we should support them in any way we can.