The COVID-19 pandemic is more than the public health crisis of 2020 – it’s the overwhelming challenge of the century. As a society, we fully and rapidly rerouted the traditional ways in which we work, learn, and live to control its spread. Meanwhile, physicians and nurses specifically stepped up to work even more demanding hours, tend to a scary spike in critical care cases, and, in the realm of long-term care, do their best to prohibit the spread of the coronavirus among our most vulnerable populations. And to add fuel to this raging fire, so much remains unknown as we approach the fall months (and the next cold and flu season).
Prior to the pandemic, burnout proved a significant issue among the medical community. A staggering 42 percent of physicians experienced symptoms of burnout. But now, as pressures on our health care system intensify, we are seeing these numbers increase among doctors and nurses alike, particularly in long-term/post-acute care specialties.
Luckily, there are accessible and actionable ways to support these medical professionals as we brace for potential new COVID-19 outbreaks and care for the millions of people already affected by the virus. Below are five strategies for successfully addressing burnout in interdisciplinary team members.
If your organization is experiencing a widespread sense of burnout, it’s critical that the leaders of your organization confront the problem directly. By openly acknowledging its existence, its pervasiveness, and its propensity to spread rapidly, top leadership can help open the door for others within the organization to speak freely about their struggles without fear of repercussions. Once exhausted IDT team members feel validated in their experiences and encouraged to share them in this new space, they can begin working together to solve these problems more effectively.
After acknowledging burnout as an organization, connect with your medical staff one-on-one to drive the message home on an individual level. One study found that clinicians benefited from monthly virtual check-in meetings focused not on key performance indicators, but on work-life balance and relevant issues. This space helps them separate and compartmentalize their daily tasks so the factors contributing to an overall sense of burnout begin to feel less overwhelming.
Managing burnout in long-term care successfully requires the mitigation of daily stressors and annoyances. Many long-term care practitioners note that the EHR platform they must use as they navigate from patient to patient contributes substantially to their stress levels. So make sure that you invest in an EHR (and other supporting technologies) that helps your IDT teamwork more efficiently with less frustration.
Research shows that psychosocial training that aims to help medical staff deal with work-related stress and trauma is particularly beneficial in reducing burnout rates. Psychiatric interventions, such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness, are also often successful. While it is not guaranteed that every physician and nurse within your organization is ready or willing to utilize such resources, making sure that these training tools are widely available and openly promoted is key in supporting your team’s overall mental health.
Oftentimes, the personalized approach is the best approach. While some professionals love workplace wellness programs, others view them as simply one more thing they don’t have time to add to their to-do list. So, create safe space for both scenarios by privately and directly asking your medical professionals what kind of resources would best support them through this difficult time. And once you receive those responses, act on them.
If we want our physicians and nurses to continue providing the best care possible for our aging populations, especially in a post-COVID-19 world, we need to be prepared to take the best care of them, too. The ramifications of burnout in long-term care are real. They threaten to deteriorate organizations and the people within them if left untended. Let’s address them today.
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