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How healthcare facilities can address the emotional toll of COVID-19

Physician struggling with provider wellness issues

As cases of coronavirus continue to rise across the country, healthcare providers are experiencing higher stress, anxiety, burnout, and even trauma. In May, CHG surveyed more than 1,200 healthcare providers and asked them how COVID-19 has impacted their anxiety levels; 72% said their anxiety has spiked since the crisis began. As a result, many healthcare facilities nationwide are taking a hard look at how they can better care for their staff’s emotional well-being. Here are just a few ways healthcare organizations are addressing provider wellness in their organizations.

Feeling alone

One provider who responded to CHG’s survey said, “I’ve kept away from my partner and family since this began in order to keep hospital germs far from them. Not having them after a stressful day during a stressful time has done a number on my mental health.” Similarly, another stated, “I feel very alone during this difficult time. Even a hug is off limits.”

Among nurses alone, 79% say they are more anxious than ever; however, social distancing and fear of spreading the virus can make normal coping mechanisms off limits.

How facilities can help: John Hopkins University has implemented 15-minute end-of-shift huddles to allow shift members to share challenges and positives of the day before transitioning home. These structured meetings include grounding exercises and help employees pause, connect to one another, release stress, and return home with a calmer mindset.

Handling trauma

After experiencing the death of three patients in three days due to COVID-19, one nurse said, “In all my years of being a nurse, this has to be the most emotional chapter of my career.”

60% of surveyed providers had treated patients with COVID-19 symptoms. With thousands of new COVID-19 cases being reported every day, healthcare workers are at risk of experiencing increased trauma as they care for declining patients.

How facilities can help: Main Line Health trained a team of employees to provide immediate psychological support to their peers if needed. If an employee experiences trauma, anyone can call the psychological first aid team on the employee’s behalf. The team responds within an hour and makes sure the employee has ongoing emotional support to avoid secondary trauma. Since implementing this process, the hospital’s employee assistance program usage is up, leaders are more aware of their people’s emotional state, and more staff are getting immediate emotional support.

Feeling devalued

Many providers stated they feel undervalued during the pandemic, with one saying, “I find it disheartening that our healthcare administration put tremendous amount of emphasis on patient safety over healthcare worker safety.” Another stated, “I have never felt so devalued as a physician in my 30 years of practicing medicine.”

In fact, when asked to rate the response of various groups to the pandemic, providers had mixed feelings about how their own institutions responded. Only 14% rated their facility’s response as excellent.

How facilities can help: The American Nurses Association begins every meeting or huddle with a 90-second storytelling session, where healthcare professionals state a core value that represents their story, share their story, and then connect the story back to the organization’s mission. As a result, employees report feeling more resilient, less burnout, and a deeper connection to their facility’s decisions and purpose.

Continue the conversation

These voices and best practices are part of a bigger conversation on how healthcare facilities can create long-term solutions for their providers’ mental health. To continue the discussion, join us and a panel of industry leaders for a webinar on provider well-being, Thursday, August 27, at 1 p.m. ET.

CHG Healthcare takes a putting-people-first approach to finding the doctors, nurses, and allied professionals your facility and patients need. Contact us by phone at 866.588.5996 or email at ecs.contact@chghealthcare.com.

About the author

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Liz Van Halsema

Liz Van Halsema is a communications specialist at CHG Healthcare. When she’s not writing about CHG’s culture and news, she can be found running one of Utah’s many trails.

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