As Covid-19 continues to surge throughout the United States, nurses and other clinicians are facing heightened risk of burnout and compassion fatigue. In this environment, offering mental health support for nurses and clinicians working in your facility has never been more important. Here’s what industry leaders should know about how to address and support their workers’ mental well-being.
Why Mental Health Support for Nurses & Clinicians Matters
According to an April 2021 Frontline Health Care Workers Survey by KFF and The Washington Post, a majority of front-line workers (62%) say that the pandemic has had a “negative impact on their mental health.” In addition, 56% said Covid-19-related stress and worry had led to other challenges, like difficulty sleeping, frequent headaches or stomachaches and increased alcohol or drug use.
Those are worrying numbers, especially given the escalating shortages of these workers. Pandemic-related burnout doesn’t just represent a serious risk to their well-being, but also their ability to perform their duty. At a time when shortages mean that every worker is critical, leaders have a vested interest in investing in real mental health support for nurses and clinicians working in their facilities.
By supporting their workers’ mental health, these leaders are also helping to ensure the quality of care at their facility. According to research published at PLoS One, workers suffering from burnout are about three times more likely to miss a shift. Other studies have shown that heightened burnout puts patient safety at risk, leading to higher rates of patient mortality and hospital-transmitted infections.
5 Ways to Provide Mental Health Resources for Nurses & Clinicians
Given this urgency, what can leaders do to provide mental health support for nurses and clinicians in their facilities?
1. Share essential mental health resources with your workers. From the AMA to the U.S. government, there are many online resources to help nurses and clinicians deal with burnout and compassion fatigue. Even though they’re from well-known clinical resources, don’t assume that all of your workers know about them. Help spread the word by sharing resources like these in a team email or Facebook group:
- Nurse.org: Resources for Frontline Workers Struggling with Moral Injury & Mental Health Amid COVID-19
- American Medical Association: Guide to Managing Your Mental Health during COVID-19
- American Nurses Association: Well-Being Initiative Free Tools and Apps
- American Psychiatric Nurses Association: Nurses’ Guide to Mental Health Support Services
- American Association of Critical-Care Nurses: Stress, Resilience and COVID-19
- American Association of Nurse Anesthetists: COVID-19 Well-Being Resources
- American Psychiatric Association: Coronavirus and Mental Health: Taking Care of Ourselves During Infectious Disease Outbreaks
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Managing Fatigue During Times of Crisis: Guidance for Nurses, Managers, and Other Healthcare Workers
2. Provide access to mental health programs. Some organizations are investing in expanded mental health programs for their workers. For instance, some Philadelphia-area hospitals have teamed up to offer some 1,800 front-line workers access to a new mental health program that’s “designed to address the unique stressors they face and help combat burnout,” writes Tracey Romero for PhillyVoice.
“Our health care workers need the same kind of access to care as our patients do,” said Jim Woodward, President and CEO of program participant Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic. “This collaboration with the Independence Blue Cross Foundation and NeuroFlow gives our staff another pillar of support and a better way to quantify when workloads are getting too strained.”
3. Offer fitness or yoga programs, or the chance to exercise outdoors. Group workout sessions are a great way to give tired workers the chance to break out of their routines. If you have an on-site fitness room, consider holding small, socially distanced workout sessions throughout the week or even the day. Let team members suggest the type of class and the timing, as well as volunteer to hold their own sessions.
Walks are another way to provide a break for front-line workers. For facilities without a fitness center, or for those workers who choose not to participate in a formal spin class or yoga session, 20-minute group walks in the neighborhood can help break the monotony of the day. Plan ahead and give everyone the chance to bring the proper shoes, sun protection, and other essential gear.
4. Educate your team about how to support your workers. Too often, nurses and clinicians are left to struggle with burnout on their own. Begin your mission of supporting their mental health by acquainting yourself with the basics from some familiar clinical and governmental authorities:
- National Academy of Medicine: Resources to Support the Health and Well-Being of Clinicians During COVID-19
- World Health Organization: Occupational Safety and Health During Public Health Emergencies – A manual for protecting health workers and responders
- American Hospital Association: COVID-19 Stress and Coping Resources
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Guidance for employers on the protection of workers from COVID-19
- U.S. Health Resources & Services: Webinar Series: Combating Healthcare Provider Burnout in Clinical Settings
- Minnesota Department of Health: Mental Health and Resiliency Tools for Health Care Workers: COVID-19
- The Joint Commission: Webinar: COVID-19 Health Care Staff Trauma and Resilience Oriented Healing
5. Deliver scheduling relief with contingency staff. Another great way to support mental health of your essential workers is by leveraging back-up personnel to give them some much-needed time off. Contingency workers like travel or per diem nurses and therapists can step in to help cover shifts or even sabbaticals or maternity leave, helping you better support your workers’ mental well-being.
In addition to providing you with new opportunities to adjust schedules and rotate workers to better support your team, contingency staffing also gives you access to a new, larger pool of nurses and clinicians. These are skilled, screened and credentialed workers who are committed to helping facilities like yours meet its patient care goals not just during the pandemic, but throughout the entire year.
Find the Contingency Staff You Need with CareerStaff
At CareerStaff Unlimited, we specialize in helping facilities meet their workforce challenges with a variety of services ranging from travel nurse staffing to comprehensive workforce management solutions. If you’re interested in leveraging our nationwide network of nurses and other clinical professionals, contact us here to set up a free consultation. You can also request contingency staff now.