Professional Wellness in Healthcare: 9 Strategies for Employers

Professional Wellness in Healthcare: 9 Strategies for Employers

June is Professional Wellness Month, a time for healthcare leaders to focus on the health and well-being of the essential staff working hard to deliver care every day. Given the sharp rise in burnout and turnover in nursing and other clinical professions in recent years, doing so could also help deliver critical benefits for facilities. For instance, improved healthcare workforce retention, happier patients, and even higher revenue at a time where it matters most.

For facility leaders, discover why professional wellness matters in healthcare workforce management and the benefits of supporting it. Plus, unlock nine strategies to balance employee well-being efforts with your facility’s operational and patient care goals.

Why Professional Wellness Matters in Healthcare

Essential in every workforce, a focus on professional wellness is especially important in healthcare. As a comprehensive 2021 review of clinical literature found, the average nurse’s physical health is usually worse than that of the American average. Nurses also regularly struggle with mental health issues like burnout, anxiety, and depression, particularly in high-stakes settings like the ICU.

Of course, there is a connection between a person’s sense of well-being and the quality of their work. A lack of wellness can obstruct productivity just as surely as it erodes an employee’s health and happiness. Conducted by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the clinical review connected surging burnout with increased absenteeism and turnover, both of which are expensive and disruptive.

Burnout can also lead to medical errors and jeopardize patient safety, the review also found. Patient satisfaction may also be negatively impacted — and, by extension, an organization’s reputation, referrals, and ultimately, reimbursement revenue.

The Benefits of Investing in Professional Wellness

The NAS review authors also connected a need to promote well-being among nurses and clinicians with the demanding nature of the healthcare workplace. The sacrifice these workers make — “setting aside their own needs and fears to care for people and take on the burdens and stresses of families and communities” as they put it — puts them at a greater need for regular wellness interventions.

However, when leaders do invest in professional well-being, the results go beyond worker job satisfaction. Engaging workers can help boost outcomes by improving communication and teamwork, the review authors argued. Additionally, having a positive and rewarding culture doesn’t just help retain valuable clinical workers but can help attract new ones too, reducing disruption and expenses when turnover does happen.

How Can Healthcare Employers Support Professional Wellness?

Given this need for professional wellness in healthcare, what can employers do to support their workforce? The good news is that there’s no shortage of resources and best practices designed to support professional wellness. What’s more, it can be achieved in ways that drive operational excellence and harmonize with an organization’s goals for long-term growth. Here are nine top strategies for employers to consider.

#1: Focus on Providing a Positive & Inclusive Culture

Employers should begin by adopting a philosophy of equity, respect, diversity, teamwork, and communication, and then making sure those ideals infuse every level of the organization, from executive leadership to new hire onboarding. Let staff know that you’re making support available, and encourage them to take an active role in their own ongoing professional well-being.

Learn more: 6 Strategies to Improve Your Clinical Workplace Culture.

#2: Offer Flexible Schedules

In high-stress environments, clinicians may frequently skip breaks due to overwhelming duties, and taking a full day or week off is even less common. Employers can promote well-being by ensuring staff take these breaks and by implementing flexible staffing measures to support work-life balance and cover both planned and unplanned absences.

Pro Tip: You can give workers more flexibility in their schedules by finding a recruitment partner who can provide contingency workers liked travel and per diem nurses.

#3: Provide Recognition

The NAS clinical review connects burnout with “a low sense of personal accomplishment at work.” Taking the effort to celebrate milestones like work anniversaries, or achievements like new certifications achieved, can help alleviate this risk. When doing so, employers should be “systematic, consistent, and meaningful to those it intends to acknowledge,” the authors write.

#4: Offer Opportunities for Training & Development

Another way to help ensure professional wellness is by offering plenty of opportunities for your healthcare workforce to develop skills. This can including CE reimbursement or the time to take classes, earn certifications, or attend workshops and conferences. Not only does this help engage workers, but it also boosts their skill-sets and those of your entire team.

Action Item: Follow these 4 tips for nursing professional development.

#5: Get Active Feedback from Staff

The best way to know what specific professional wellness initiatives will be most impactful to your healthcare workforce is by asking them. Conduct surveys and encourage attendance by offering incentives for response.

#6: Provide Advancement Opportunities

Making sure nurses are represented when it comes to making important decisions that affect their daily work routine and responsibilities can also help ensure a better work/life balance and sense of job satisfaction. For instance, advancing qualified nurses into leadership roles such as Chief Nursing Officer, Chief Medical Officer or Chief Wellness Officer can help ensure that improvements to the culture are informed by people who have worked in those roles.

Pro Tip: Maximize both training and leadership opportunities by setting up mentorship programs between more seasoned nurses and new staff.

#7: Turn to Nursing Groups & Associations

Nursing groups can help provide additional resources and guidance on building professional wellness programs for your healthcare workforce. For instance, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) has specific standards for “establishing and sustaining healthy work environment (HWE) standards,” while organizations like the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) and the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) also offer specialized educational content.

Employers can also support the Daisy Award, a program that recognizes nurses who go “above and beyond to not only provide patients and families with excellence in clinical care but also compassion.” You can learn more here.

#8: Offer Resources & Support for Mental Health

Healthcare employers can also ensure that their benefits and work environment provide adequate support for mental health, as well as the time needed to use these benefits. The clinical review found that “interventions involving mindfulness and those using cognitive-behavioral therapy were effective in addressing stress, anxiety, and depression in clinicians.”

#9: Offer Resources & Support for Physical Health

Physical health is no less important for professional wellness within your healthcare workforce. This is especially considering that nurses are among the professionals most likely to neglect exercise or other forms of taking care of themselves through basic lack of time, as the review authors remind us. Even a basic step like giving staff access to a gym or fitness center and the time to use them can go far toward supporting professional wellness.

Pro Tip: Employers looking for help can also turn to the ANA’s Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation (HNHN) Grand Challenge.

Support Your Staff with Workforce Solutions

At CareerStaff, we specialize in providing America’s healthcare facilities with the resources, expertise, and clinicians they need to maximize professional wellness, patient care goals, and their workforce budget.

Contact us today to find out how our Joint Commission-Certified healthcare workforce solutions can help you support professional wellness initiatives in your organization.