Hospital leaders routinely cite the well-being of their staff as one of their top concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals said they were exhausted after battling COVID-19 for more than two years. Health officials say they understand that even the most resilient workers have been through more than they ever imagined.
Now health officials say they need to set a better example by adjusting their staff’s expectations, including how often they need to respond outside of work. Leaders say they need to get their team members out of the hospital and make their work lives more manageable.
Yes, the demands of the healthcare profession go beyond normal business hours, since medical emergencies happen around the clock, especially in the event of a pandemic. Still, some executives say they’re trying to be more mindful of giving workers a break and a bit more space.
Katie Galbraith has served as president of Duke Regional Hospital in Durham, North Carolina, for eight years and is set to take over as president of Lankenau Medical Center, part of Main Line Health in the Philadelphia area.
In an interview with the Director General of HealthGalbraith said burnout “probably the biggest thing that keeps me up at night is concern for the well-being of our team”.
As part of this effort to help keep team members healthy, she tries to avoid sending too many emails to team members late at night.
“I think if I email people at all hours of the night, even though I don’t expect them to respond, I think sometimes people think I’m expecting that they reply to me at all hours of the night, and check their emails at all hours of the night,” Galbraith said. “And that’s just not the case. sustainable model for the health and well-being of our team members.
“I really try to be aware of that,” she said. “Again, I was really good at it, I wasn’t sending emails all the time. It’s been more difficult the last two years, because things have changed so fast, and things are getting better. passed so quickly. (Watch the video of Katie Galbraith chatting with the Chief Health Care Officer about staff support. The story continues below the video.)
Hospital leaders must do better to take care of their employees if they want to keep them.
Two in three nurses (67%) said they intended to leave their current position within three years, according to a survey by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. In 2018, 39% of nurses said they had adequate staff most of the time. More than one in five doctors are also considering leaving, according to a study Posted in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Health officials need to recognize that “everyone is struggling,” even the most resilient staff members, said Michael Ivy, deputy chief medical officer of Yale New Haven Health.
As the pandemic continues, leaders must manage worker expectations, he said.
Given the continued difficulties of the pandemic, health officials must also adjust their expectations of workers.
“People are exhausted, just exhausted,” Ivy said. “You have to change that expectation. I mean, I’m all about optimism, but it has to be realistic optimism.
Erik Martin, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Ky., said hospital leaders can think about how many audits are really needed and other ways to relieve certain administrative tasks of the staff.
“These are not normal times,” he said at the American Hospital Association’s leadership summit last month.
Joseph Cacchione, new president and CEO of Jefferson Health and Thomas Jefferson University, said he wants to work with health system leaders to create more flexible hours.
“We will seek a more flexible and inviting work schedule for our healthcare professionals, nurses and respiratory therapists,” he said. health director.
Give a better example
Hospital leaders must lead by example by taking time, for their own mental health and for the good of their teams. Health officials also need to send the message that workers aren’t letting the organization down by taking vacations and spending time with family and loved ones.
“I think me and all leaders need to come back to really thinking about how we present ourselves every day and how we model what we want for our teams, which is that they can be well-rounded and having that time and being able to take a break, not being constantly tethered to their cellphones and feeling like they can take care of themselves first and foremost,” Galbraith said.
“It’s that old saying of ‘Put on your own oxygen mask first.’ We have to be able to do it. And it has been more difficult in the last two and a half years,” she added.
Some hospital leaders may be reluctant to take time off because they know how hard their staff work and feel guilty about taking a break.
“It’s easy as leaders to feel that,” Galbraith said. “I don’t want to take a day off because I don’t want to let the rest of the team down, and there has to be something I can do to support the team, because I know how hard they work. hard. And it’s still important to be able to take that time. If I take a day off, I come back a much more rested leader.
Prescription: A vacation
Martin, who is also president of the American Organization for Nursing Leadership, spoke about the importance of leaders leading by example. When hospital leaders keep pushing each other and don’t take breaks, they’re setting a bad example, Martin said.
“I think in our industry, healthcare, we’re always here to take care of others,” Martin said. “And I don’t think we always really understand when we don’t take care of ourselves, it sends a subliminal message to our teammates that it’s not OK for them to take a break either.”
However, hospital and health system leaders must ensure that their doctors, nurses and other staff are granted leave.
Sometimes that means more than a day.
“A day here and there is important,” Galbraith said. “It is also important to have a period of time off and to take a vacation or a PTO.”
Warner Thomas, President and CEO of Ochsner Health, said health director on the importance of encouraging staff to take personal time.
“We are in a marathon that never ends,” Thomas said. “Our race never ends. We need to make sure the hard working people are there, have the time off and have the chance to decompress.
“The other thing is people need to know that we care about them,” he added. “We spend a lot of time on employee forums and on communication, and rounding up, and being in our organization. People need to know that what they’re doing makes a difference. they do and we thank them for what they do. It’s often the little things. It’s verbalizing how you feel.