Health care professionals don’t seek the public spotlight, but while serving others in the dangerous front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, their selflessness and courage have been part of the national narrative.
Labeled as heroes in this unprecedented fight, their daily battles can exact a mental toll that’s sometimes manifest in grief, depression and loneliness. So in addition to trying to protect the health of medical workers as much as possible, it’s vital for health care facility operators to keep their staff feeling engaged, connected and encouraged, according to Dr. Kyle Bogan (www.drkylebogan.com), a medical office culture expert and general dentist based out of Lewis Center, Ohio.
“Health care workers have experienced immense physical and mental strain during this pandemic,” Bogan said. “You hear a lot in the news about the danger of the virus to frontline workers and whether they have enough protective gear, but the mental effects can’t be discounted.
“Working past the point of exhaustion, worrying they might bring the infection home and infect family members, feeling traumatized from the whole experience, it can be difficult for them to keep navigating this challenging time. Therefore, health care institutions and those who run facilities need to light the way for their staff and provide them with added support.”
Bogan suggests the following initiatives health care operators can implement to help their employees deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic:
- Provide educational resources. “Even the most qualified health care professionals are still trying to grasp the nature of the disease.” Bogan said. “To ensure your staff is supported properly, make educational resources easily available to them. Whether you email them articles, send them news updates, include hard copy materials at your health care facility, or make important content available on your website, these resources will be much appreciated.”
- Provide little extras. It can be easy for health care workers to skip a lunch break or extend a shift as they spend an increased amount of time providing support to patients. Bogan said, “Consider initiatives within your health care facility to help enhance the employee experience. Things like a rewards program, or providing them with a great meal, encouraging them to take breaks and call their loved ones, and making coffee and snacks readily available. Little things that show you care about them.”
- Give them public recognition. While much of the general public is practicing social distancing, many health care practitioners are forced to take this safety measure to a more extreme level, such as having to quarantine from family members. “This isolation can have a huge mental toll on even the toughest workers as boundaries between work and home life are diminished,” Bogan said. “It’s important to recognize their hard work and sacrifices. Public recognition can go a long way toward helping their psyche. If your health care institution has a website or social media channels, consider showcasing the employees that have gone the extra mile during this crisis. Encouragement from community members can help lift their spirits.”
- Let them bank vacation time. Many health care workers are finding that they can no longer take their planned vacation. Bogan suggests implementing a system that enables workers to bank their vacation time. “If workers can’t use their vacation time in 2020, for instance, allow them the flexibility to carry it into the following year,” he said. “If some employees have put in extra time during this pandemic, consider providing them with additional vacation time to show appreciation for their sacrifice and service.”
“Health care workers are experiencing this pandemic on a whole other level,” Bogan said. “As employers of these workers, implementing some of these strategies to support your employees will give them a boost and make your work culture even stronger.”