The spread of coronavirus has impacted nearly all businesses, but its impact on health care providers is significantly higher than most. With insufficient protective supplies, health care workers are rightly concerned about the impact for themselves and their family members.

Heath care is a challenging profession, especially during COVID-19. But there are steps systems can consider that will help to build and support a culture of employee wellness and engagement. To help address and alleviate stress for critical employees within our health care systems and provider practices, consider the following:

Recognize the external challenges employees may be facing. In addition to the stress of potential exposure to the virus, some providers and employees are trying to navigate child or elder care as schools and daycare services close.

  • Gather a group of parents to help determine what the greatest needs are and determine what the system can do to support them
  • Clearly communicate the process for reporting time off needed to care for children or other family members and how that time off will be handled
  • Provide a list of outside care resources, if available
  • Designate a space on your intranet or employee portal where providers and employees can share ideas and resources for keeping children or elderly relatives engaged and cared for during closures

Keep providers and staff informed of operational changes and protocols. It’s critical for leaders, providers and staff to all be on the same page regarding patient care protocols, employee safety and operations. Share any changes as soon as decisions are made, including the “why.” Repeat the information multiple times. This may include:

  • Patient treatment protocols
  • Provider protocols for testing and treating patients
  • Adjustments to visitor policies
  • Shift changes
  • Sick day and PTO policies
  • Steps the system is taking to ensure adequate staffing
  • Steps the system is taking to help avoid burnout

Help managers and supervisors help their teams. Offer a toolkit that includes protocols and responses to address the most likely concerns:

  • Tips for preventing the spread of the virus (handwashing reminders, etc.)
  • Protocols for treating patients who are presented with symptoms or have received a positive test result
  • What to do if you’re symptomatic
  • Recognizing signs of stress, anxiety and burnout in team members – and how to address it
  • Processes for accessing the EAP
  • Tips for managing their own stress, as well as helping staff to manage theirs

Provide a nature respite. Being outdoors and in natural surroundings has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. If you’re in a location where being outdoors isn’t a possibility, mimic the outdoors in a breakroom with plants, flowers, as much light as possible, soothing music and comfortable chairs where providers can take a break.

Encourage healthy eating. Provide healthy snacks, meals and drinks that providers and staff can grab during any shift to help them stay healthy and hydrated.

Share the good. There are a lot of examples of people stepping up to help others during these challenging times. Provide a space on your intranet, employee portal or even areas in break rooms where providers and employee can share snapshots and stories of humanity at work.

The health care profession won’t get easier any time soon, but prioritizing your commitment to the wellness of your workforce is your system’s best asset in navigating the crisis and providing the best outcomes possible for your patients.

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