Hospitals function as complex, interconnected ecosystems made up of many elements that all work in synergy to deliver compassionate, quality care. At the very heart of this ecosystem is the hospital workforce – the doctors, nurses, technicians, and countless other staff who interact with patients each day.
The Mounting Pressures Facing Healthcare Workers
Working in healthcare has always been demanding, with long hours, constant stress, and frequent exposure to trauma and suffering. Today, the healthcare workforce faces mounting pressures that seriously affect their wellbeing and performance. The COVID-19 pandemic in particular exerted unprecedented strain, and many healthcare workers reported symptoms of PTSD because of it.
This rising distress not only affects the personal lives of clinicians, but it also takes a staggering toll on hospital finances and quality of care. Disengaged, burned out staff are more prone to medical errors that ultimately jeopardize patient safety. We can clearly link preventable hospital readmissions to insufficient nurse staffing. Furthermore, constant churn disrupts essential relationships between patients and their care team.
In light of these trends, we can see that proactively supporting clinicians and staff must become a top strategic priority. Thriving employees leads to thriving organizations and patients.
Comprehensive Initiatives to Cultivate Staff Wellbeing
Leading hospital systems are implementing comprehensive initiatives that focus on engaging employees and promoting wellbeing. These include:
- Self-care programs that offer counseling, support groups, stress and time management skills, mindfulness training, and other resources to help employees manage the demands and stresses that come with healthcare work.
- Flexible scheduling options allowing staff greater work-life balance, including shift swapping, on-call pools to reduce back-to-back assignments, and remote work when possible.
- Career development opportunities like tuition reimbursement, specialty training, leadership development programs, and clinical ladder pathways to support continuous skills growth.
- Tailored support initiatives that, according to the folk at Horizon Health, have been specifically designed to meet the needs of frontline nurses, emergency department staff, OR teams, oncology units, palliative care, mental health management, and other specialty roles that experience elevated distress.
- Community building efforts to foster interdepartmental collaboration, teamwork, and mutual support through events, rituals, and activities that celebrate the organization’s shared mission and values.
- Providing staff a voice through open communication channels, inclusion in decision making, integration of feedback into new policies and programs, and transparent discussion of how input was incorporated.
Embedding Wellbeing into Operations
The most successful organizations try to take a systemic approach that implements employee wellbeing into day-to-day operations and processes. For example:
- Integration into onboarding and training programs to ingrain self-care habits early.
- Incorporating wellbeing metrics into performance dashboards and reviews to maintain focus.
- Aligning support programs to complement patient experience and quality of care initiatives, highlighting how caring for caregivers underpins broader goals.
- Ongoing communication from leadership emphasizing staff health as central to the hospital’s mission and culture.
- Providing managers with resources and accountability for team wellbeing.
This organizational commitment to nurturing the workforce sustains a flourishing culture even amidst the inherent stresses of healthcare work.
Reaping the Rewards
Investing in staff wellbeing will pay dividends across the entire hospital ecosystem. At the end of the day, healthier employees have higher job satisfaction, stronger engagement, improved work-life balance, and increased personal resilience. They have the personal reserves that are necessary to truly connect with and care for patients. Enhanced retention helps keep highly skilled clinicians in place, while also preserving organizational knowledge.
Like any high-functioning ecosystem, a hospital depends on the health of each element for the collective to thrive. And no constituency is more vital than the caring professionals who directly lay hands on those seeking healing. That is why leading hospital systems make staff support a top priority woven into operations.