The corona virus disease outbreak has impacted almost every group of people in every nation across the globe, causing a significant amount of anxiety. To a larger or lesser extent, the changes to our daily routines and lifestyles have impacted our well being. Certain factors put some groups at an increased risk of experiencing high-level stress, such as their work environment and demands. Healthcare workers on the front line can be prone to stress during this time.
Providing care to others during the COVID-19 pandemic can lead to stress, fear, anxiety, and other dominating emotions. Healthcare workers face additional sources of stress during these unprecedented times because of different reasons:
- Working extended shifts or seeing more patients while trying to stay up-to-date on the evolving COVID-19 treatments
- Intense work schedule, which makes it harder to practice self-care
- Stress in personal life due to the crisis
- Concern at lack of protective equipment
- Concern about their own health
- Needing to quickly adjust to new colleagues and guidelines with no time to reflect and adapt
- Practice social distancing or isolate entirely from family and children
Practices to Reduce Stress and Support Healthcare Workers During and After the Pandemic
Although we can’t completely remove stress in the healthcare setting, changes to the environment and support from those higher up may help boost employee resilience. The following solutions can help in-home healthcare agencies, hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities:
Comply with government guidelines
Strict adherence to guidelines is of elevated importance for the protection of healthcare workers. Although COVID-19 guidelines continue to change, it is essential that you stay up-to-date with the latest developments and implement the government’s advice. Social distancing and face coverings are still very much the norm, but if there are new developments, you should adapt as soon as possible. Keep your team informed to ensure the safety of all and reduce stress.
Employ strict biosecurity measures
Healthcare workers that are required to assist or treat those with COVID-19 may experience stress related to:
- Physical strain of protective equipment (dehydration, heat, exhaustion, etc.)
- Physical isolation (restrictions on touching other people)
- Constant awareness and vigilance regarding infection and control procedures
- Pressures regarding procedures that must be followed (e.g., a set routine, lack of spontaneity)
The corona virus is known to live on surfaces for hours or days but is effectively killed by disinfectants. However, masks, gloves, and goggles will fail to protect caregivers who later encounter contaminated surfaces and forget to wash their hands. In the workplace, it is essential to harness a culture of safety through strict biosecurity measures. Even during these tough times when protective equipment can be lacking and uncomfortable, employees should be reminded that these procedures are in place to protect their health and the health of others. Clinical staff should clean high-touch surfaces with disinfectant, regularly wash their hands, and take appropriate biosecurity measures to increase confidence in the workplace.
Reduce the risk of disease transmission with safe practices
Even when COVID-19 is not suspected, it may be present. Safe practices should be enforced, regardless of whether or not patients and staff show no symptoms. Placing a facemask on the patient at arrival, supplying tissues, promoting cough etiquette, and providing for hand hygiene and surface decontamination are all important steps. Following these procedures help increase confidence and lower anxiety about transmission for all.
A focus on employee protection through specific training and encouragement of adherence to barrier precautions and hygiene recommendations may help provide a priority focus. Reminding healthcare workers to focus on their safety and being clear and specific about how to do so can promote calm during the pandemic.
Be flexible to personal demands
Another source of anxiety in healthcare workers during this time includes the need to tend to their children. The increased work hours coupled with school closures as well as supporting other personal and family needs can lead to stress. As their work hours and demands increase, it can feel challenging to find the balance of doing their job and supporting loved ones at home. Working in public care during a pandemic may prevent workers from requesting support if they are experiencing stress. Given this, employers should be proactive in encouraging supportive care as well as providing a safe and healthy workplace.
During work shifts, providers should check in on staff members, encourage communication, and offer time outs for basic bodily care and refreshment. At the same time, it is essential to prevent team members from working too long by themselves, working around the clock with few breaks, and working when they are not feeling well. Observation, communication, and regular check-ins are critical during this time to prevent burnout and reduce stress on the job. If possible, be flexible to their personal schedule if they are also caring for their children, elderly parents, community, and loved ones.
Deal with stress in the aftermath of pandemic correctly
After time caring for those with COVID-19, a readjustment period is to be expected. Healthcare workers will need to commit to self-care and reintegration. If an employee needs support, time off, or increased supervision, healthcare leaders should be able to adapt and provide. Workers should seek out support, check in with other colleagues, schedule time off work when possible, and seek further treatment if their stress continues for longer than three weeks.
Recognizing the sources of anxiety allows healthcare leaders and organizations to develop solutions to address these concerns and provide specific support to their healthcare workforce.
Reducing stress on the job can help to reduce injuries and incidents in the workplace. These safety practices can help to control your workers’ compensation costs throughout COVID-19. Talk to a PMC Healthcare workers’ compensation expert for ways to protect your organization against the high costs associated with work-related injuries. Contact us today at 781-449-7744 or [email protected].