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How to Prevent Healthcare Burnout in a Pandemic

Amidst the chaos that 2020 brought with it, there has been the soft but consistent hum of healthcare personnel working to treat those with and without COVID-19. Their days consist of helping the weak, explaining to families why they can't come in to see their loved ones, and being faced with patient after patient – risking the health of themselves and their families daily. Why? Because the call came, and they answered. Over the last several months, healthcare workers all over the nation and world have been faced with struggle and taking care of everyone else – but who's taking care of them? Burnout in the healthcare industry was a point of struggle long before COVID-19 but is something especially prevalent in the middle of a pandemic. It's time to find what works and adapt typical burnout prevention methods to the times.

"Symptoms" of Burnout in Medical Industry

Burnout is frustrating no matter the industry, but it can be a difference of life and death in the healthcare industry. The results of healthcare burnout are:

  • Mental instability (i.e. depression, anxiety, etc.)
  • Lack of professionalism
  • Patient dissatisfaction
  • Critical mistakes
  • Decline in physical health (often presenting as flu-like symptoms)

When healthcare workers are in such great demand, these repercussions should be minimized for the health of the healthcare worker as well as for patients. Investing in burnout prevention is investing in the health of the nurse, doctor, etc., but also investing in the health of patients by providing them with medical staff that is physically and mentally equipped to provide quality care.

How to Help Medical Personnel with Burnout

Burnout prevention cannot be promised, but it can and should be strived for. Though it may seem more difficult now, burnout prevention should be emphasized instead of looked over. Here are ways to prevent or minimize healthcare burnout during a pandemic.

Improve Workflow Design

As the pandemic has brought in a flood of patients, there was no choice but for the workflow to be changed. If it's already having to be changed, then why not do it right? As a workflow design is being restructured, it needs to be done with the well-being of healthcare workers in mind. The weight of the world is already on their shoulders because of their many patients, but they also have parents, spouses, and children to worry about. They can't bear this weight on their own.

Require Resilience Training

It may feel like there's no time for this but requiring resilience training for healthcare workers is needed now more than ever. It not only helps them learn how to better cope with the circumstances but also gives them a much-needed mental break from their emotionally draining days. Invest in this and require it of healthcare workers.

Social Events, Virtual-Style

Typically, HR representatives recommend planning social events to give workers something to do that isn't work-related. However, how does that work if you can't gather? Technology! Many companies have opted to create virtual happy hours for their employees to maintain social contact with their co-workers without them having to physically gather. Especially in the healthcare industry right now, having the opportunity to join something non-work-related is a big deal. Leverage technology and make it happen!

Emphasize the Open-Door Policy

Healthcare workers are human, and they need a safe place to let out their frustrations and exhaustion. Adopt an open-door policy if you don't already have one and make it known to your healthcare workers that it's safe for them to let their guard down with you. They're taking care of so many people, and they need someone to take a moment to take care of them.

Strong Leadership

In tough times, people need strong leaders who will provide them with consistent support and reliable information. It's important to leverage positions of leadership for the good of healthcare workers. Let them know that you're fighting for them while they fight for the lives of others. Leaders have the ability to make workers feel valued and seen, which helps them to extend that same sentiment towards patients and co-workers.

Stay Strong

Don't forget, not many of us have lived through something like this before. Everyone is doing their best. Healthcare workers are in an impossible situation and they need to be seen. This falls on the shoulders of leadership and should be taken very seriously. We're all human, we're all concerned, and we're all trying to navigate a new normal.

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