Burnout is a real challenge for employers in all settings, but especially for employers and employees in the healthcare setting during a pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about new challenges for medical employees, increasing the likelihood of healthcare worker burnout.
Burnout can manifest in different ways, from irritability to lack of interest and compassion to snapping at those around them. This is crucial to recognize, especially amongst those who work in healthcare, as burnout can lead to fatal mistakes. We need our healthcare workers on top of their game for themselves, their families, and the community.
More tragedy is leading to more tension
In the emergency department, nurses are faced with more tragedy on a daily basis than ever before in our lifetime. We recently spoke with a nurse who had experienced losing 5 patients in a single day. That’s more than most nurses would typically lose in a week or more. He was heartbroken and visibly shaking as he told us his story.
He was desperate for a break from the tragedies he continues to witness firsthand, but COVID has forced most of us into situations we would have never imagined. His employers understand his anguish, and they are anxious to find a way to help him . . . but what can they do?
Compassion brings additional healthcare worker burnout risk
Physicians are not immune from facing workplace burnout either. We recently talked to an ICU doctor who was struggling with the pandemic in his department. She has seen patients dying alone without their families by their side. She has had to play the role of not only their doctor, but their support system as they pass. She has been feeling overwhelmed and depressed from facing this much death while acting as multiple resources for her patients.
She expressed feeling guilty that her patients aren’t able to have their families with them when they need them the most. This doctor has been able to facilitate video calls between her patients and their families, but knows this is not the same as being able to be there in person. It’s a devastating feeling seeing her patients not be able to embrace their loved ones while they are struggling with this illness.
Healthcare workers work a variety of rotating schedules, especially when working in a hospital. During this time, they are working more challenging shifts than ever before. Healthcare workers can find themselves working a 12-hour night shift which quickly turns into a 16 hour shift as they continue to stay on to help their colleagues and care for patients.
Many hospital and EMS workers are also separating themselves from their families in order to protect them. Some of the individuals we’ve spoken with have been staying in different parts of their homes away from their families — a few even staying in hotels or renting apartments to avoid transmitting the virus to their family members. This is an isolating experience for these doctors and nurses as they are unable to decompress after a difficult shift with support from their family. While incredibly selfless, these actions can have a damaging effect on their mental and emotional health.
Healthcare worker burnout: Finding a simple solution to a terrible problem
So, how do employers help these hard-working people avoid burnout during this stressful and difficult time? The truth is that each individual is different, so the way each handles these new levels of anxiety need to be personalized. Each person burns out because of their own reasons, those issues manifest differently, and the results of that burnout will be specific to them. The key to avoiding and solving employee burnout is to engage with our healthcare workers at the personal level.
Even if you don’t work in healthcare, but know someone on the frontlines, please check in with them to see how they are doing.
To employers: It’s up up to you to check in with your workers — because you have the most at stake. You are the only ones who can engage with these individual to find out how they are doing, what’s affecting them, and what they need right now. A personal approach to addressing issues with burnout is the only way to resolve workforce problems quickly.
Ideally, however, you will spot those issues before they ever arise.
A workplace-wide engagement survey can also help you understand just how burnt-out your workforce is. Collective responses can allow your HR department to fast-track an effective response before it becomes a major problem throughout the organization.
At Flynn Barrett Consulting, our nursing and healthcare experience puts us in a unique position to help your healthcare organization support your employees. We are here to help facilitate conversations between organizational leadership and your employees. We can conduct employee engagement surveys to identify underlying problems and worsening situations.
If you want some help finding some answers, we’re here to talk it through with you. There’s absolutely no obligation in scheduling a free consultation to learn how we can help your organization combat healthcare worker burnout!
Send us a message today and we’ll help you gain new perspective on the risk of burnout in your organization.