The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every single person in one way or another, leaving no one unscathed. Healthcare and the healthcare system alike have been directly affected and forever changed, not to mention the heavy toll placed on healthcare workers especially.
According to a recent survey conducted by Nursing Standard, eight out of ten nurses shared that their mental health has been affected by COVID-19. Added stressors of the pandemic, in an already high-stress environment, are challenging the mental and emotional health of nurses, bringing more importance than ever towards the need to provide stability in the healthcare workforce.
During the onset of the pandemic, travel nurses were in high demand and paid upwards of $130 per hour to care for COVID patients throughout the crisis period. Similarly, respiratory therapists experienced a pay raise, with rates increasing to approximately $90 per hour. Due to enhanced needs for support and care, many hospitals offered incentive pay, bonus payouts and sign-on bonuses for new staff.
However, as more vaccinations become available to the general population and COVID-19 numbers decrease, so will the pay for these specialized healthcare workers. While staffing ratios have remained high considering recent healthcare turnover, likely due to new avenues of healthcare delivery that have emerged with the opening of testing sites, vaccine clinics and the rise of telemedicine, the question remains how this will impact healthcare workers remaining or being available at the bedside.
The impact of turnover in the healthcare system is real. In addition to the healthcare facility, this turnover also affects patients and the community due to a loss of quality, patient satisfaction and, in some cases, access to care. According to a nationwide survey of more than 1,000 registered nurses conducted by the American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment Association, sixty percent of respondents reported that nurse-to-patient ratios, a critical staffing measure that directly relates to patient safety and outcomes, have risen to unsafe levels in the last year.
So, how can healthcare stabilize from this unprecedented past year? Organizations and leaders across the healthcare system must focus on the wellbeing of the healthcare community. Providing opportunities for healthcare professionals to share their experience and the patients they cared for, as well as recognizing that everyone’s experience and needs are unique. Requiring rest and time off to recuperate and reenergize from extra hours worked or strained situations experienced. Looking at the individual needs of each healthcare professional can help rebuild the healthcare community one healthcare professional at a time.
How to promote mental well-being to my team?
Guidance for managers to help support their team's mental health includes:
Ensure all staff receive good quality communication and accurate updates.
Rotate workers from high-stress to lower-stress functions.
Partner inexperienced workers with more experienced colleagues – a buddy system can help provide support, monitor stress levels and reinforce safety procedures.
Initiate, encourage and monitor work breaks. Implement flexible schedules for workers who are directly affected or have a family member affected.
Ensure that staff know where they can access mental health and psychosocial support services.
The above applies to all individuals as well – managers who are role models of self-care are able to mitigate stress.